Sky Soldiers hit one hundred on D-Day 73
The 173rd Airborne Brigade (Sky Soldiers) is the U.S. Army's Contingency Response Force in Europe, providing rapid forces to the United States European, Africa and Central Commands areas of responsibilities.
A young French spectators eagerly claps and awaits for two Paratroopers as they come off the drop zone following the commemorative jump by airborne forces into Normandy France for D-Day 73. 
Paratroopers from across the armed forces and NATO jumped into Normandy to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of Operation Overlord, also known as D-Day.
3 photos: Sky Soldiers hit one hundred on D-Day 73
Photo 1 of 3: A young French spectators eagerly claps and awaits for two Paratroopers as they come off the drop zone following the commemorative jump by airborne forces into Normandy France for D-Day 73. Paratroopers from across the armed forces and NATO jumped into Normandy to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of Operation Overlord, also known as D-Day. Download full-resolution version
U.S. Army Paratroopers watch the airborne operation on Iron Mike II Drop Zone in Normandy, France on June 4, 2017. Paratroopers from across the armed forces and NATO jumped into Normandy to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of Operation Overlord, also known as D-Day.
3 photos: Sky Soldiers hit one hundred on D-Day 73
Photo 2 of 3: U.S. Army Paratroopers watch the airborne operation on Iron Mike II Drop Zone in Normandy, France on June 4, 2017. Paratroopers from across the armed forces and NATO jumped into Normandy to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of Operation Overlord, also known as D-Day. Download full-resolution version
Command Sgt. Maj. Franklin Velez of the 173rd Airborne Brigade conducts pre-jump training on June 3, 2017 in Normandy, France. The airborne operation on June 4, 2017 commemorates the 73rd anniversary of D-Day, the largest multi-national amphibious landing and airborne operation in history. Overall, approximately 400 U.S. service members from units in Europe and the U.S. are participating in ceremonial D-Day 73 events from May 31 - June 7, 2017
3 photos: Sky Soldiers hit one hundred on D-Day 73
Photo 3 of 3: Command Sgt. Maj. Franklin Velez of the 173rd Airborne Brigade conducts pre-jump training on June 3, 2017 in Normandy, France. The airborne operation on June 4, 2017 commemorates the 73rd anniversary of D-Day, the largest multi-national amphibious landing and airborne operation in history. Overall, approximately 400 U.S. service members from units in Europe and the U.S. are participating in ceremonial D-Day 73 events from May 31 - June 7, 2017 Download full-resolution version
A young French spectators eagerly claps and awaits for two Paratroopers as they come off the drop zone following the commemorative jump by airborne forces into Normandy France for D-Day 73. 
Paratroopers from across the armed forces and NATO jumped into Normandy to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of Operation Overlord, also known as D-Day.
U.S. Army Paratroopers watch the airborne operation on Iron Mike II Drop Zone in Normandy, France on June 4, 2017. Paratroopers from across the armed forces and NATO jumped into Normandy to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of Operation Overlord, also known as D-Day.
Command Sgt. Maj. Franklin Velez of the 173rd Airborne Brigade conducts pre-jump training on June 3, 2017 in Normandy, France. The airborne operation on June 4, 2017 commemorates the 73rd anniversary of D-Day, the largest multi-national amphibious landing and airborne operation in history. Overall, approximately 400 U.S. service members from units in Europe and the U.S. are participating in ceremonial D-Day 73 events from May 31 - June 7, 2017

Modern warplanes intrude the legendary Normandy horizon. With stoic precision, they seek a solemn grassy and remarkable clearing amidst fabled farmland and patchy woods. The six French and U.S. planes are carrying special cargo: over 300 Paratroopers, excited, focused and looking forward to following in the footsteps of their forefathers.

On June 6, 1944, the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions jumped into Normandy to initiate the liberation of France, leading the way to victory in Europe and the end of World War II. At the time, over 13 thousand Paratroopers in full combat gear were carried in C-47s across the English Channel and dropped in a single lift overnight into enemy territory.

On the eve of the 73rd anniversary of Operation Overlord, also known as D-Day, two senior U.S. Army Paratroopers are also getting ready to mark milestones of their own. 173rd Airborne Brigade Command Sergeant Major Franklin Velez and the 173rd Brigade Support Battalion Command Sergeant Major James LaFratta are conducting their 100th static-line jumps at this historic event.

Jumping into Normandy on the 73rd commemoration of D-Day is not only an event of personal significance, but also a milestone that brings Paratroopers back to the beginning of their careers.

"It doesn't matter what unit you are currently with, because all Paratroopers started their time with the 507th [Infantry Regiment] at the Airborne School, and the 507th jumped here in Normandy," said Velez. "We are all connected."

Reflecting on the start of his airborne career, Command Sgt. Maj. Velez vividly remembers his first jump with his unit -- the sixth jump of his career, after conducting his first five at the U.S. Army Airborne School in Fort Benning, Georgia.

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