EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Eighty-two years ago, modern warfare changed forever when the U.S. Army conducted its first parachute jump on Aug. 16, 1940 at Fort Benning, Georgia.
That day is now remembered each year as National Airborne Day.
Saturday, Aug. 13, a group of Borderland veterans commemorated that first Army parachute operation with an open house at the Benavidez-Patterson “All-Airborne” Chapter of the 82nd Airborne Division.
The airborne veterans exchanged stories and opened up their clubhouse at 2608 Fort Boulevard to the public. Much of the facility looks like a museum stuffed with Army and paratrooper memorabilia.
Army paratroopers were at first an experimental unit but ended up making a huge contribution during World War II, said Paul Albright, chairman of the local airborne chapter.
Paratroopers jumped into Normandy, France, the battle of the Bulge and Holland during Operation Market Garden. Operation Market Garden served as the basis for the classic 1970s war movie “A Bridge Too Far.”
“They were able to get into places no one else could,” Albright said. “Those airborne forces drew a line and pushed back Nazi Germany and gave a foothold against Nazi Germany to turn the tide of the war and win the war.”
The airborne veterans group also used the open house as a fundraiser benefiting its project to repair and improve its parking lot. The parking lot was severely damaged by flooding in August 2021.
If you missed the open house, the organization’s clubhouse is open 3 p.m. to midnight each Friday and Saturday night. You can drop by 2608 Fort Boulevard and make a donation, Albright said.
“The community has been great,” Albright said. “We have raised almost $20,000 toward our goal. We are just short of it, but we will have a parking lot
“The biggest challenge: A lot of airborne folks are elderly,” Albright continued. “Those that come in wheelchairs or walkers have to go through rocks to get to our building. That fellowship ends up being hindered. It is important that we make that goal as soon as possible, because of that fellowship of us coming together means the world to us.”