SAN DIEGO – A local Army veteran, who parachuted into northern France with thousands of Allied forces on D-Day during World War II, was honored Saturday with a drive-by birthday party to commemorate his 99 years of life.
Coronado native Thomas Rice, a member of the 101st Airborne Division, jumped into Normandy as a part of Operation Overlord in June of 1944, part of a critical mission which helped Allied forces liberate Europe from Nazi occupation. He marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day last year with a tandem parachute jump a short distance from the beaches of Normandy.
“A big chunk of (my life) was an important part, and for the most part, it was so worn into us that I don’t forget much of anything,” Rice told a photographer from OnScene.TV on Saturday. “I can remember a lot of details that took place because I had to be a squad leader and had to move a lot of men around, so it was a lot of orders given.”
Rice, who joined the military when he was about 20-years-old after two years of schooling at San Diego State, spent much of his post-military career — roughly 44 years — as a teacher, where he taught history and government topics to students. He’s also written a book about his wartime experiences.
Asked about his plans for the future, Rice said they include, “Standing erect and still breathing and surviving.”
“It’s a matter of survival here for the most part as it always is and has been,” he said. “All these experiences I’ve had, I can catalog them and you should see, all the information I have in letters and memoranda, it’s almost a museum.”