JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Kevin Crowell stands in awe of the soldiers, paratroopers, and sailors who fought on D-DAY in Normandy. "We saved the world. We saved the world from tyranny," he says in reference to the might of the American military effort on June 6th, 1944.
Crowell says it's his time to say thank you to the young men who volunteered to fight off Hitler. "And think of this," Crowell says. "The Americans who died left their homes and left their farms and left their families and left their town to fly across a giant ocean and go serve."
Crowell is particularly focused on the paratroopers. Some 13,000 American paratroopers jumped behind enemy lines to clear the canals, bridges, and gun nests of the Germans to enable the soldiers' assault onto the Beaches.
According to Dr. Rob Citino, Senior Historian for The National World War II Museum in New Orleans, the paratroopers were critical. "They discombobulated the Germans."
Crowell is fired up about making a jump this D-DAY in a drop zone in Normandy. As a veteran member of the 82nd Airborne himself, he says he's practiced jumping in replica drop zones at Ft. Bragg. Now, in France, he'll jump into the real ones.
Crowell is also celebrating his own personal victory. He came home from Iraq to face a major struggle with PTSD. He'd seen his buddies blown up in an IED attack. He even planned a suicide attempt.
It failed, though. "I passed out and found myself the next morning. I felt it was my second chance." He says his service dog, Bella, from K9s for Warriors is a huge factor to his turning his life completely around. Bella even wore a cap and gown at Crowell's college graduation.
Crowell lives in St. Augustine now. He spends hours and hours helping homeless veterans and other disadvantaged folks.
As for the 75th Anniversary trip, Crowell says on D-DAY in Normandy, he'll probably get "tears in my eyes."