XENIA — Those who weren’t able to participate in James “Pee Wee” Martin’s big birthday bash last year will get another chance to “meet and greet” the WWII veteran at his upcoming “101th Birthday Jump Fest.”
Scheduled for Friday, April 29, and Saturday, April 30, the two-day celebration will honor Martin and fellow servicemen who have been invited to gather — once again — at SkyDive Greene County, 177 S. Monroe Siding Road.
Martin, at 100 years-old, is one of the few remaining “Screaming Eagle” paratroopers to live to tell his tale about surviving D-Day and being one of the first soldiers in his “101st Airborne Division” to enter an occupied France. He participated in Operation Market Garden (in Holland), the Normandy invasion (June 1944), and the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944 – January 1945).
There will be three historic C-47 jump aircraft to perform parachute drops: the “Tico Bell,” “Placid Lassie,” and “Beach City Baby” — all owned and operated by the Commemorative Air Force. There will also be commercial aircraft to take jumpers up, provided by SkyDive Greene County. Jumpers who have not brought their own parachute can rent equipment at the jump site.
The U.S. Army 101st, 82 Airborne Divisions are also expected to participate. Martin’s old Army pals Vince Speranza, 101st Airborne, and Jack Hamlin, Coast Guard, hope to be in attendance to greet other D-Day survivors.
Martin, who turns 101 on Friday, April 29, has received the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and European African Middle Eastern Service Medal for his service. Martin is the last remaining “Toccoa Original” of 1942, which was made famous by the HBO mini-series “Band of Brothers.”
Jump Fest is hosted by W&R Vets, a veteran-owned, non-profit, 501c3 organization that is dedicated to honoring veterans. The organization has scheduled jump times/windows for participants to do tandem, static line, or free fall jumps. There will be staggered jumps throughout the event and three food trucks on site.
Around 5:30 p.m. on Friday, April 29, those attending will be able to hear the song “Normandy” dedicated to Martin by country music performer Karen Waldrup who will be performing with her band. Dayton Honor Flight will be on hand and local DJ Scott Hall will provide the music for the two-day event.
Event organizers are still taking orders for a brick fundraiser which is raising money for the design and installation of a bronze statue in Martin’s likeness. Upon completion, it will be placed in a designated area in Sugarcreek Township.
Parking for the free two-day event is available at Caesar’s Ford Park, 520 Stringtown Road, where a shuttle/bus will pick-up and drop-off participants to SkyDive Greene County for a $10 fee (donation). For more information about this event or to order a commemorative brick to honor a service member, contact Jodi Martin-Puterbaugh at 937-848-4930 or visit www.4everbricks.com.
Reach Karen Rase at 937-502-4534.