U.S. Army colonel jumps at Normandy reenactment
By Rich Bartell, U.S. Army Africa Public Affairs
VICENZA, Italy–Lt. Col. Jeffrey Foundas is an active history buff. And active is putting it lightly. Using personal funds, Foundas jumps out vintage air planes as a “living interpreter” of World War II military history. He’s part of the Liberty Jump Team and participated in parachute jumps commemorating the 1944 Allied Invasion of Normandy, June 2-6.
Foundas and the Liberty Jump team headquartered in Denison, Texas made jumps near French towns of Carentan, Sainte-Mere-Eglise and Brecourt Manor in Normandy where significant World War II battles took place.
He calls himself a living interpreter of World War II battles.
“I physically jump out of a World War II aircraft and participate in re-created battles,” Foundas said.
Foundas’ current ‘real’ military assignment is as a senior liaison officer for the Center for Army Lessons Learned at U.S. Army Africa’s G-3 Operations section in Vicenza, Italy. Being stationed in Europe allowed him to take leave and participate in D-Day commemorative parachute jumps which cost him $200 a piece.
“The Liberty team makes parachute jumps from vintage C-47s in World War II uniforms and equipment, furthering its mission of honoring heroes and veterans of all wars and foreign conflicts,” Foundas said.
"Members of the Liberty Jump Team honors and recognizes the sacrifices of America's and allied veterans, especially those who served in World War II,” Founda, who is a charter member of the Liberty team, said.
He speculates that remaining World War II paratrooper veterans would jump if they could, but in most cases it their age precludes the behavior.
“The Liberty Jump Team performs parachute jumps in their place to honor them and to show other generations how these great Soldiers contributed to winning the World War II," Foundas said. Foudas has been making jumps with the group that originally formed in 2006 to make a commemorative jump at D-Day ceremonies during the Liberty Airborne Festival in Carentan, France. The team was officially organized when the jumpers requested to continue on as a formalized group.
Today, the team — which has made appearances all around the world — consists of more than 80 members, including both jumpers and supporting ground crew.
According to Foundas, Liberty Jump Team is largely made up of active duty, retired or reserve members of the U.S. and foreign military. Members hail from the U.S., France, Canada, England, Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium.
"Many members of Liberty Jump Team have served as U.S. Army Paratroopers and enjoy honoring veterans by commemorating World War II parachute operations," Foundas said.
"What other reason would lead a man in his 70s to strap on 42 pounds of parachute and leap out of a 60-year-old airplane at 90 miles an hour flying at 1,200 feet," Foundas quipped.
He said members of the team range in age from their 70s to 18 years old. There are also several Purple Heart recipients on the team who jump regularly, Foundas said.
Foundas honors the legacy of the 82nd Airborne Division’s 376th and 456th Parachute Field Artillery battalions by wearing the “All-Americans" distinctive unit patch.