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‘I’m doing this because of what they did.’ Local man parachutes over Normandy for D-Day 75th anniversary

Posted at 7:42 AM, Jun 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-07 10:15:59-04

June 6 marks 75 years since the beaches of Normandy were stormed by soldiers on what would become known as D-Day and one local man has the honor of being part of that anniversary.

Bill Coffman is a Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s deputy. He took advantage of the opportunity of a lifetime to go to Normandy, France for the 75th anniversary of D-Day. His role: Parachuting over Normandy. This isn’t something Coffman is new to. In fact, his love for jumping out of airplanes doesn’t parallel anything else.

“Every time I felt like I was in the air, I felt so happy,” Coffman said.

Bill Coffman before his first jump in Carentan.

This thrill of jumping off bridges started when he was young, and it was that thrill that took him to the United States Army. At 19-years-old, Coffman joined the military and became a Green Beret and a member of the Fifth Special Forces. Soon after he joined he would go to jump school at Fort Benning, Georgia.

“I got to jump and it seemed like it took me two weeks to get out of that plane, I’m like, would you just hit me and let me go?” Coffman said jokingly.

After one tour with the Army, Coffman would part ways with the military and eventually become a deputy sheriff, but his love for parachuting never left.

Years later, Coffman would remain close with his team from his time in the military, and in late 2018 he would realize an opportunity to do another jump from a plane, but this one would be unlike anything he’d ever done before.

Coffman (left) pictured with Tom Rice (middle), a paratrooper from WWII who participated in Wednesday’s jump from Carentan.

“This is the greatest event I’ve been able to do, probably since becoming a cop,” Coffman said.

The training to get here took place in Florida with the Round Canopy Parachute Team where he did three jumps to get him ready for the anniversary, but he says his muscle memory kicked in.

“I was like, this feels no different than when I was a kid in jump school,” Coffman said.

Coffman will be doing two jumps out of C-47s over Normandy, the first one he completed on June 5, the second one will be on June 8.

Coffman (first to jump) from the air during his first jump on June 5 over Carentan in Normandy, France.

“You gotta wear the full garb,” Coffman said. “Helmet to boots.”

Plus, he’ll be wearing a 50-pound parachute. Coffman was the first to jump on June 5 over Carentan in Normandy.

As much as Coffman is excited to get this opportunity, this experience is his chance to honor the soldiers who risked and sacrificed their lives in World War II, particularly in a battle that what would ultimately mark the beginning of a victory for the United States.

“It means everything to me,” Coffman said. “I’m doing this because of what they did.”