A 95-year-old former U.S. Army paratrooper who fought in World War II will make what may be his final parachute jump Tuesday at the side of the Army’s famed Golden Knights airborne team in Perris.
Vincent J. Speranza of Illinois is slated to make the tandem drop with the Knights between 10 a.m. and noon in the skies over Perris Valley Airport.
“It will be a great pleasure to jump again with the finest parachutists in the world,” Speranza said.
The WWII veteran hasn’t made a jump in years, though for more than three decades, he was active in commemorative skydives in his native New York, event organizer C.J. Machado told City News Service.
The elite Golden Knights, now in existence for 60 years, are in Southern California on a recruitment drive for the Army, and Speranza agreed to make the jump as part of an exhibition — and a salute to his fallen brothers.
The retired high school teacher served as a machine gunner on the battlefields of Northern Europe in the closing years of the war. According to Machado, while attached to the 501st Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, Speranza fought in the infamous “Battle of the Bulge,” when German forces made a counter-offensive across Belgium in December 1944 to push the Allies back as they closed in on the Rhineland.
Roughly 500,000 U.S. troops fought in the battle, with 19,000 killed and almost 50,000 wounded. Some of the casualties stemmed from weather exposure, with temperatures plunging below freezing and many men not properly clothed for the bitter cold and snow, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
Speranza and his fellow “screaming eagle” sky warriors helped break the German juggernaut.
Another guest of the Knights will be 87-year-old Jerry Bourquin of Escondido, one of the founding members of the parachute team, though he will not be making a jump.
Speranza left the Army as a private first class shortly after the end of the war. He published his memoirs in the 2014 book “Nuts! A 101st Airborne Division Machine Gunner at Bastogne.”
He will featured in a documentary set to air Thursday. More information is available at call-to-service.com/.
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