Middletown-based skydivers in France for 72nd D-Day observance

Middletown’s skydiving team will be heading overseas this weekend for a special jump.

At the invitation of the French government and The Normandy Institute, Team Fastrax of Middletown will be traveling to Normandy, France, on Friday to take part in this weekend’s 72nd Anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Europe by Allied forces during World War II.

The team — which does many demonstration jumps with flags at various patriotic, sports and community events throughout the U.S. — will be jumping with large U.S., British and French flags as well as a rare Allied forces flag.

John Hart of Team Fastrax said it is a privilege to be a part of the event.

“It’s sacred ground. To jump the U.S. colors is an honor,” Hart said.

Hart said the jump is being done in honor of local Medal of Honor recipients and Bill Wilch, a local World War II veteran. He said Wilch had planned to attend the festivities in France but is unable to due to health issues.

Team Fastrax was invited to attend two months ago and Hart said they had to have special flags made as well as a lot of paperwork, permissions, and waivers to be completed before they could go. When the team jumps, they will be carrying the 20-pound flags and a 30-pound lead weight in addition to their main and reserve parachutes. The costs for the team’s trip are being subsidized by their sponsor, Selection.com.

“I’ve jumped over a lot of places that are special. It means so much to be going to Normandy where thousands of Americans died for our freedoms. It’s very special to pay our respects to military veterans,” Hart said.

At the event in France, more than 70 veterans from Britain and the U.S. will be honored. Four other veterans will receive the Legion of Merit during the largest gatherings of Allied veterans during the commemoration. Susan Eisenhower, the granddaughter of Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, will ring the Freedom Bell to honor Allied veterans who died in the invasion.