Local man to parachute in Normandy, France, as part of D-Day commemoration

Botetourt County man part of paratrooper demonstration team

By Tommy Lopez - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

BOTETOURT COUNTY, Va. - A Botetourt County man will be among hundreds who will take part in a jump into history, to remember one of the most impactful events in the world.

As tributes to World War II veterans continue, Drew Hodges will be in Normandy, France, next week to take part in the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of D-Day. As people watch from around the world, he will parachute into a historic drop zone, just as the Allied troops did in 1944.

"We do it to honor them," Hodges said.

He is a U.S. Air Force combat veteran. He grew up in Roanoke, went to Virginia Tech and has settled down in Botetourt County. He served America overseas in combat missions around the world.

He believes everyone should have an appreciation for what the Allied forces did in World War II.

“What we strive to do is to keep that generation’s stories -- stories of the airborne paratroopers, stories of the guys coming in on the beach -- we want to keep them alive for the education, training and historical value for later generations,” Hodges said.

He's a member of the WWII Airborne Demonstration Team. The jumps require lots of training in Oklahoma. The planes, uniforms and gear are all what the soldiers used.

They pay their own way, stressing that they're not reenactors. They portray these veterans to honor them.

“What we do has such a historic value and it really recalls their sacrifices. So it’s very humbling when we get on board,” Hodges said.

The team members will be among 300 paratroopers jumping June 5.

“It’s going to be amazing,” Hodges said. “Not only thrilling for me personally but it’s an emotional event that we will see on faces throughout the world.”

He’s jumping with personal items of World War II veterans, like dog tags and pictures -- including one of his father, who fought in the conflict.

“It’s really an honor for me to carry something that is special to the families,” he said.

Hodges will meet his team in Europe this weekend. They have jumps on four days as part of events in France and England.

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