Normandy, France (CNN) — Jim “Pee Wee” Martin acted like he’d been here before, like jumping from a plane is as easy as falling off a log.
Maybe that’s because he had — 70 years ago.
“I’m feeling fine,” Martin told reporters moments after landing in a French field. “… It was wonderful, absolutely wonderful.”
Martin was part of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division that parachuted down over Utah Beach in their bid to retake France and, eventually, the rest of Europe from Nazi Germany. They actually touched down in enemy-controlled territory a night before what’s referred to as D-Day.
His jump Thursday in the same area was different and — despite his being 93 years old now — a whole lot easier.
“It didn’t (compare),” Martin said, “because there wasn’t anybody shooting at me today.”
Every year, every day it seems, the number of surviving World War II veterans like Martin dwindles. He estimates there are only a few dozen members of his unit who took part in the now historic D-Day invasion who are still around.
It’s ironic, in a sense, because Martin was among the oldest of his bunch in June 1944 — at 23 years old — surrounded by others who were mere teenagers.
Together, they parachuted onto France’s northern coast in the dark of night not knowing what awaited them. Whatever it was, it would not be friendly or easy, they expected.
Seven decades later, Martin did it again — not fighting a bloody war but at least reliving his role in a military campaign that changed the course of history. Others joined him in this now daytime jump, though he was the only one from his generation.
Martin admitted that he was motivated by “a little bit of ego, (to show that) I’m 93 and I can still do it.”
“And also I just want to show all the people that you don’t have to sit and die just because you get old,” he added. “Keep doing things.”
God bless this American hero and all other members of “The Greatest Generation” who continue to demonstrate what real courage, dedication, and honor look like. Same same to those who gave their lives that day, and to those who have passed on since. Our world would be a much different place if it weren’t for these brave men. To say millions owe them a debt of gratitude that can never be fully repaid would be the understatement of a lifetime. To them, I say: Thank you. Thank you. THANK YOU.
Last but not least, a beautiful, movingly poignant picture tweeted by the French Embassy on the 70th anniversary of D-Day:
— French Embassy U.S. (@franceintheus) June 3, 2014
Says it all.