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Members of Congress commemorate D-Day with their own parachute jump over Normandy

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A contingent of U.S. lawmakers from the House of Representatives made a commemorative parachute jump Friday at Normandy marking the 80th anniversary of D-Day and the historic assault that launched the end of World War II.

Organized by Rep. Mike Waltz, R-Fla., and Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., the bipartisan group included 10 congressmen, all veterans, making the trek to France to honor and pay tribute to the U.S. and Allied troops at a defining moment at home and abroad.

Waltz said in this era of political acrimony and infighting he believes it’s important for Americans to see their representatives in Congress “coming together” to honor the veterans.

“I think to really do something that is notable that, you know, maybe young people will pay attention to and go, Wow, that’s exciting and cool — to kind of pass on their legacy — is worthwhile,” said the congressman, a former Army officer and Green Beret.

Crow, who served in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and 75th Ranger Regiment, and Waltz made a similar jump for the 75th anniversary. But more colleagues wanted to join this year, eager to mark the milestone in what may be a last opportunity to honor the aging veterans who served in World War II.

“Making the same jump those units did 80 years ago is an important way to honor those veterans and remember that America is at its best when we put aside self-interest,” said Crow, “and do great things for the betterment of our country, just like the Greatest Generation did decades ago.”

Afterward, they shared photos and videos of their jumps and landings on a picturesque day near Mont Saint-Michel. “Honoring our forefathers,” Waltz said, flashing a thumbs-up.

The group of lawmakers is coming together at a time when Congress has struggled to keep up with the basics of governing, fractured by political divisions at home and ongoing debate over the U.S. role in the world amid the Russian invasion Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas war.

Those making the jump include a new generation of military veterans in Congress from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, alongside those who have been out of the service for years. They don’t always agree politically, particularly over U.S. support for Ukraine as Republicans close with Donald Trump, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, mostly voted against a recent aid package. Democratic President Joe Biden used his own D-Day address to draw parallels to the World War II fight for democracy and to call for solidarity with Ukraine.

Ahead of the jump, many of the lawmakers participated in a practice run in April in Florida to recertify for the launch.

“We’re ready to go: Feet and knees together, get out in the breeze,” Rep. Cory Mills, R-Fla., a former Army combat veteran, said earlier in the week.

“You know, the reason for doing this is, as always, to honor one of the greatest generations that’s ever lived,” he said.

It’s not lost on the lawmakers that their group, while technically bipartisan, is mostly made up of Republicans who hold one of the slimmest House majorities in modern times.

Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Texas, a former rear admiral in the Navy and White House physician, said the advice from the GOP leadership was simple: Be careful.

The lawmakers donned period paratrooper uniforms and flew in a vintage aircraft before they jumped in the historic reenactment — though on a far smaller scale.

Eighty years ago, thousands of U.S. and Allied paratroopers landed around Normandy Beach ahead of the largest armada of thousands of ships ever assembled, carrying enormous numbers of Allied troops across the English Channel to fight Nazi control. It would become the largest air, land and sea assault in history, the beginning of the end of Adolf Hitler’s seizure of Europe. Thousands of Americans and Allied troops died on D-Day and in the fighting that followed.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., an Army veteran, said as the U.S. faces challenges today supporting Ukraine against Russia — he voted for the aid package — he hopes the message people take away from the anniversary events is “don’t delay in pushing back tyranny.”

Waltz said he spoke with House Speaker Mike Johnson at the start of the week and assured the Republican leader the group would be safe.

“He just looked at me and I said, Mr. Speaker, I promise you, the airplane’s vintage, the uniforms are vintage, the location is historic, but the parachutes are new,” Waltz said. “So don’t worry … we’ll be fine.”

A spokesman for Waltz said the lawmakers all landed safely.

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Associated Press writer Farnoush Amiri contributed to this story.

By LISA MASCARO
AP Congressional Correspondent

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