Grimaldi also emphasized that he wanted to honor
the memory of his grandfather Jim Moriearty, a World War II veteran
and long time Lincoln insurance agent.
Grimaldi called his presentation “On the shoulders of giants.”
How did this commitment begin? Grimaldi, a lawyer in Lincoln, and
wife Jennifer were talking about taking a trip to France with their
kids to attend the World Cup Soccer Tournament. As they delved into
planning the trip, he came across an article about 2019 being the
75th anniversary of the D-Day landing on June 6, 1944.
D-Day was the turning point of the war in Europe. The Normandy
landing was a massive operation. Part of the force included
paratroopers who jumped into France behind enemy lines in the dark
of the morning on June 6th.
According to the article, the anniversary observation would include
the Liberty Jump Team, a WWII commemorative paratrooper group, who
would recreate the event by jumping into France from vintage
aircraft on June 6, 2019 to honor the brave soldiers of that
Jim felt the tug of history calling out to him to join this
endeavor. Jennifer agreed saying, “If you don’t do this, you will
regret it the rest of your life.” World Cup Soccer on hold,
paratrooper drop into France on the 75th Anniversary of D-Day a go!
The whole family including their four kids was on board for this
alternative trip to France.
To make this matter even more of a wonderful coincidence, it turns
out that Jim Grimaldi was himself a paratrooper, having earned his
Airborne Wings in the Army in 1997. Do you see how this plan seemed
destined to happen? He reached out to the Liberty Jump Team and soon
became a member.
There was one important matter to take care of though. “I had not
made a parachute jump since my army days, almost twenty years ago,”
he said. So, he was off to jump school all over again. “I had an
idea that was running around in my head. I called a friend from my
army days, someone I had not seen since leaving the army, and he
jumped at the opportunity to join up too,” he said.
The Liberty Jump Team brought them up to jump status in no time,
using parachutes that are much like the ones used in WWII.
“Jumping as a paratrooper is a completely different experience from
skydiving. Skydivers go to ten thousand feet and have a long period
of free fall before opening their chute. Paratroopers jump from
1,200 feet or less, sometimes as low as 500 feet. We want to spend a
minimum time in the air where we are most vulnerable to avoid being
shot at. Remember, paratroopers are dropped behind enemy lines, an
extremely dangerous battle front,” he said.
And another difference is what paratroopers carry
when performing their mission. “Our rig weighs about 48 pounds,
parachute and reserve chute. To that you have to add another 50
pounds of weapons, ammunition, food, water, and anything else we
would need to be on our own behind enemy lines,” he said. The
Liberty Jump Team does not add the extra weight, just the
appropriate uniform and parachutes.
[to top of second column]
The Grimaldi family and the Liberty Jump Team headed
to France as June 6th, 2019 approached. They toured former
battlefields that still had German bunkers in place, and the towns
that were closest to the D-Day landing sites.
On the big day, the Liberty Jump Team suited up, climbed into a
World War II era C-47 aircraft and headed to the site on the
Normandy coast where the actual paratroop landings occurred. “This
was my first jump from a C-47. I was really excited,” he said.
Jim Grimaldi, lawyer from Lincoln, Illinois, became Jim Grimaldi
paratrooper jumping out of a plane on the 75th anniversary of D-Day
over the actual site of the original jumps. “I felt so privileged to
be performing in this event, to honor those who came before us, and
who exhibited untold courage in the face of the enemy,” he said.
“On the shoulders of giants” is Grimaldi’s way of honoring those
paratroopers who came before him. “I can’t do anything without
looking back at who came before me, who showed us the way. My
grandfather Jim Moriearty was part of the World War II military, and
I honor him every time I jump,” he said.
What does the future hold for Jim Grimaldi? Commemorative
paratrooper teams have been jumping over Normandy on D-Day since
2002. “I made the jump on the 75th anniversary, and plan to jump
every year at the event until the 100th anniversary,” he said. That
will be his time to pass on the tradition to another generation of
paratroopers, to let them “Stand on the shoulders of giants.”
Jim Grimaldi mentioned one final event that took place on the 75th
Anniversary Commemoration of D-Day. A member of the Liberty Jump
Team traveled to France with his fiancée. Their plan was to get
married after the parachute jump on the actual battlefield where
they all landed surrounded by their team mates.
The couple’s plan seemed to run into an insurmountable road block as
they could not find anyone qualified to perform the service.
Well, as it turns out, Grimaldi is ordained and performed the
wedding ceremony just as the happy couple had planned it. An amazing
ending in one of the most unlikely places!