CORONADO, Calif. (KGTV) -- World War II veteran Tom Rice has a lot of war stories. “All that we did was new and experimental because we had experimental and brand new equipment that we weren’t supposed to tell anyone about,” said Rice.
Rice grew up on Coronado. He joined the 101st Airborne Division as a paratrooper in 1941 after graduating high school.
“I’d never been in a plane. I’d hardly ever seen any planes because I always lived right here.”
After training in Georgia, Rice parachuted into Normandy on D-Day. “I’m in the door looking out straight and I could just see all the fireworks coming up. It was, it felt like a Fourth of July thing. When I stepped out, the prop blast hit me. So I’m hanging on the outside and the rest of the guys are going underneath me.”
Rice landed safely even though a bullet struck his parachute. “I was black and blue for about three weeks.” He went on to win several Purple Hearts and France’s Legion of Honor.
Despite being 97-years-old, Rice still parachutes out of an airplane every year on the anniversary of D-Day to pay tribute to his fellow paratroopers. “I’ll keep jumping until I’m 100.”
In honor of his courage, Rice will be the Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Mother Goose Parade, the same parade he enjoyed with his children decades ago.
“There’s going to be an awful lot of people there. It’s going to be something.”
The parade is in it’s 72nd year. It begins Sunday, November 18, at 1 p.m. The route travels along Main Street from El Cajon Boulevard to 1st Street.