Retired Tucson police officer to parachute in France for 75th D-Day commemorations

Retired Tucson police Sgt. Bob Jimenez will honor the 75th anniversary of D-Day in a manner fitting an ex-paratrooper — by jumping out of a plane.

Make that five jumps — weather permitting — to honor the military personnel who fought during the Allied invasion of France in World War II.

Jimenez, 63, is a member of the Liberty Jump Team, which is a nonprofit group of commemorative jumpers who participate in military events and air shows. They jump — more than 15,000 jumps since the group began in 2006 — to honor all military veterans.

Jimenez is in France to take part in commemoration activities for the D-Day invasion of Normandy, which took place June 6, 1944. It’s the first time he has jumped to commemorate that historic invasion to liberate Europe from the Germans. He has previously jumped in Holland and has 11 jumps as a member of the Liberty team, which he joined about two years ago.

“It’s humbling to honor those who have sacrificed their lives,” he said Monday from Paris. “This is a chance to salute them.”

He and fellow team members will don World War II era uniforms and take to the skies in C-47 Dakota transport planes, some of which were used in the invasion. They will make static-line jumps — where a cable attached to the plane pulls the parachutist’s canopy open — over inland areas that were important sites for airborne troops during the early morning hours of D-Day.

Jimenez said one of the planes being used, named “That’s All, Brother,” was the lead transport plane during the D-Day invasion, one of about 800 C-47s that ferried thousands of paratroopers into France.

The history won’t be lost on Jimenez. He’ll be landing in fields near Amfreville, St. Germain de Vareville, Graignes, La Fiere and Angoville au Plain. These were crucial drop areas were paratroopers jumped in the dark of night to support the seaborne attack.

The first two scheduled jumps are Wednesday, June 5. Team members will take a break from jumps Thursday, June 6, to attend official ceremonies marking the anniversary of the invasion’s first day. Many world leaders are expected to attend the day’s events.

The team’s last jumps are schedule for June 9 and 10. Jimenez, who served five years with the 82nd Airborne Division in the mid-1970s, said the weather is looking favorable for at least three of the jumps.

About 100 Liberty team members are expected to participate in the jumps. Team members use modern, steerable canopy parachutes for safety reasons. They pack their main parachutes but must have a certified packer prepare their secondary parachute. Jumpers leave the plane in about one-second intervals to provide enough space on the descent between each parachute, Jimenez said.

The team has made numerous jumps in Europe over the years, including previous jumps in Normandy; Holland; Bastogne, Belgium; and for the 65th anniversary of D-Day, a night jump near Amfreville.

Jimenez worked for Tucson police for 28 years, retiring in 2010. He said he wasn’t interested in skydiving after he left the Army, but learned about the Liberty team a few years ago and decided to join.

Most, but not all, of the Liberty team jumpers are retired from active duty military, the Reserves or National Guard. Others are firefighters, law enforcement officers or other first responders. Some come from other walks of life and there are members from all over the world, he said. All members must pass a physical exam, complete a fitness test and undergo a week’s training before being allowed to jump, Jimenez said.

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