Making History Project
"Preserving Veterans' Stories"
501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization

82nd Airborne Archive

Happy Birthday Rock Merritt!

Rock MerrittAugust 10, 2018, is the 95th birthday for Kenneth “Rock” Merritt.

Rock Merritt is a true hero having jumped into Normandy, France on D-Day as a member of the 82nd Airborne.

One of my first oral history interviews was with Rock at a picnic table in La Fiere during the 70th Anniversary for the D-Day landings.

To this day, Rock is an authoritative voice on the history of the 82nd Airborne, 508 P.I.R., and all things related to the Normandy campaign. Rock Merritt rose to be a Command Sergeant Major in the Army and served his country in Vietnam as well.

For all of his accomplishments, Rock was enshrined as one of the original members for the All American Hall of Fame for the 82nd Airborne in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Gracious with his time and an inspiration to current paratroopers, I consider Rock to be a Great American and a true friend.

Happy Birthday…Command Sergeant Major!

75th Anniversary Airborne Jump Flag

82nd Airborne 75th Anniversary Jum

On October 20, 2017, the 508 P.I.R. of the 82nd Airborne performed a commemorative jump for the Family & Friends of the 508 P.I.R on the 75th Anniversary of the Airborne. Present and observing were paratroopers from the conflicts of WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and Panama.

I was also present and fortunate enough to win a silent auction for the signed jump flag from that day. All paratroopers that jumped signed the flag.

Below is a picture of the signed flag as held by Lt. Col. Browning and CSM Donaldson right before they jumped.

75th Anniversary Jump Flag

Good Times at Fort Bragg

508 PIR Jump

I have just returned from the 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment reunion at Fort Bragg. What a fantastic trip! We had such a great turnout with Veterans from all the conflicts including World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, and Panama. Since this is the home of the 82nd Airborne, the participation from active duty soldiers was off the charts as well. The Family & Friends of the 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment outdid themselves with this fantastic event. Special thanks go out to Lou, Rock, Donna, Troy, Ellen, and Gene for all their help putting this together and making sure it ran smoothly.

Reunion Events

CSM Donaldson and DunnThe reunion lasted four days and there were some notable events. First, we started off by visiting the General Lee Museum in Dunn, North Carolina. General Lee was the “father” of the airborne and his home was converted into a very nice museum. Next, we were able to watch active-duty soldiers do a parachute jump in Fort Bragg on the anniversary of the 82nd Airborne’s birth. We had lunch on base with the active-duty soldiers and then toured the 82nd Airborne Museum. That night we had a social and happy hour honoring all active duty soldiers which was well attended. The following day we visited the Special Forces Museum, which detailed the campaigns of the special forces from World War II through the present. All were delighted to have Rock Merritt lead us on a personal tour. The reunion ended with a formal banquet honoring all members, past and present, of the 508 P.I.R. and the family and friends of the 508 P.I.R.

New and Old Friends

MHP ProjectAs for me personally, I met some new great friends including Don McCallister, CSM Ret., a recently retired member of the 508 P.I.R. who is now dedicated to helping wounded warriors through the Independence Fund (more about that later). Likewise, there was Jim Strickland (Vietnam), Robert Cheeseman (Panama), Claud Dunn (Vietnam), Phil Cronin (Vietnam), Carl Porter (WWII), John Coates (WWII), and all those active-duty guys including Aaron, Alexander, Hank, Brandyn, Jarvis, and Brandon. Likewise, seeing old friends like Gene, Rock, George, Ernie, Burt, and Tino was awesome as well. Thankfully, in the limited free time that I had, there was still a way to work in three oral history interviews for World War II, Vietnam, and the Cold War.

Neat Stuff

One of the coolest gifts that I have ever received was a small piece of the last ISIS flag flying over Mosul before it was liberated. CSM Donaldson from the 508 P.I.R., 82nd Airborne gave that to me in my hand as he was there in July during that historic moment. I was also lucky enough to win a silent auction for the 508 P.I.R. flag that Lt. Col. Browning carried with him as he jumped on the anniversary of the birth of the 82nd Airborne. All paratroopers that jumped that day signed the flag (see below), how cool is that?

508 Flag from October 20 Jump