D-Day deja vu PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by By DEBBIE ROGERS Sentinel Staff Writer   
Friday, 29 May 2009 10:16
When Mark Durivage jumps out of a plane next week in Normandy, France, he'll be thinking of his Oregon neighbor who made a similar jump 65 years ago.
It was almost in the exact spot that Earl Geoffrion plunged out of an airplane, his pockets crammed with ammunition that he used to blow up railroad tracks and dismantle communications for the Germans. The whole effort that June 6 led to the end of World War II.
This is the second time that Durivage, who is dean of technology at Owens Community College, has made the jump in France. It's part of a re-enactment to celebrate the anniversary of D-Day.
"It's pretty special to go over there," said Durivage, who is a member of the Liberty Jump Team. "It's pretty humbling to land where someone died."
Geoffrion, who is 91, said it is an honor to be remembered in such a way.
He vividly remembers that late spring day.
"We jumped at 400 feet and the chute opened and knocked my helmet down by my chin ... then I landed in two feet of water," he said.
Geoffrion was a demolition expert and team technician with the 82nd Airborne. He tracked down Durivage after reading about his first re-enactment jump in Normandy two years ago.
Durivage, who tries to catalog every story from the World War II veterans he meets, was shocked that Geoffrion lived just a quarter-mile away from him.
Durivage said the parachute jump doesn't scare him.
"The jump's the easy part. That's the one minute that's easy. It's all the other work that makes it happen," he said, ticking off packing parachutes, doing publicity and finding sponsors.
"What's really going through my mind is not what you want to hear. God, family. It's where my damn hands and feet are," Durivage said with a laugh. "You go out the door, all you want to see are your toes, once you have that and you feel the jerk on your back É it's total elation."
The static-line jumps average 1,500 feet and take about a minute to 90 seconds. The parachute, which is attached to the plane with a cord, is 35-feet wide, about 7 feet longer than the WWII jumpers used. The jumpers also execute in full uniform.
Durivage, who had done 50 jumps, said he isn't in the Liberty group solely for the jumping. It's for the history.
He's been a WWII buff since he could read and watch John Wayne movies. He's the historian for 440th Troop Carrier Group and reunion coordinator, treasurer and newsletter editor for the WWII Troop Carriers.
"I love these old guys. If I didn't do it, I don't know who else would step up," he said. "It's really cool because I have all these new grandpas É. But it tears me up when I get a death notice."
When Durivage, who is 45, discovered Liberty Jump Team, which is based in Roanoke, Texas, it combined his two loves.
He said his wife, Dawn, is very supportive of his hobby, for which he travels to Oklahoma for practice and across the globe for re-enactments. They have two young sons.
"For my 40th birthday, my wife gave me an option to either learn how to jump or go to MIS (Michigan International Speedway) and race. I thought I could race when I'm old.
"She always kids with me, she says it's not a passion, it's an obsession."