Richard “Red” Falvey loved attending the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center’s Living History event every fall. Each year, Falvey drove four hours south from his farm in Hammondsport, N.Y. to AHEC in Carlisle to revel in what he described as “my America.”
“He always came back from these events recharged, or as he would say ‘wound up like an 8-day clock,’” said Rich Falvey, Red Falvey’s oldest son, as he addressed a crowd of family, friends, colleagues and admirers gathered on the grounds of AHEC on Saturday in Falvey’s memory. “You need to know how much you all meant to him.”
Falvey died on August 20, just one week after his 91st birthday and only two months after being diagnosed with Stage IV Melanoma. The World War II veteran is best known for launching out of a plane in the predawn hours of June 6, 1944 with 13,000 other paratroopers from the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions.
Falvey, himself, was apart of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, now most famously known as the ‘Band of Brothers.’
So when the directors of this year’s event at AHEC tapped on the shoulders of retired Sgt. 1st Class Harold Myers and retired Sgt. 1st Class Mike Elliot to reenact the missing man formation in Falvey’s honor, the answer was simple: yes.
“I felt honored, no question about it,” said Myers.
Myers and Elliot, both members of the Army Ranger Group Parachute Team, dove out of an airplane at 10,000 feet, landing separately, about a minute apart, on a black and orange ‘X’ in the field off Soldiers Drive. The sergeants’ individual landings signified the two separate journeys of the surviving soldier and the fallen soldier.
Myers and Elliot both met Falvey for the first time in August 2011, when the three completed a tandem jump in the very same field for Falvey’s 90th birthday.
“He was so inspirational. The jump left him on cloud nine,” said Elliot. “I think he is looking down and smiling.”
Tandem parachuting is a type of skydiving in which the student is harnessed to the instructor throughout the entire jump.
“I think he would be delighted that we are honoring him this way. It would touch his heart,” said Myers.
Those who knew Falvey recalled his exuberance and endless amount of energy.
“He was always smiling,” said Dave Newcomer, an 83rd Infantry living history reenactor, “Every day was a gift for Red.”
“I hope I am like that when I reach his age,” said Myers. “He was in great shape.”
After the landing, Falvey’s memorial service commenced, with the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment and 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment living history interpreters marching across the field and firing rifles, respectively.
Representatives from AHEC, the living history interpreters and the Falvey family all spoke at the service.
“He was one of millions who answered his nation’s call in its darkest hour ... each time one of those soldiers passes away, we lose a bit more of our history,” said Colonel Matt Dawson, the director of AHEC. “We honor Red and all those soldiers today, so that their service may not be forgotten. They did nothing less than save the world.”
The 506th PIR also performed a ceremonial role call, which included a moment of silence after Falvey’s name was announced three times, followed by the firing of three volleys and then a performance of taps.
“He was aware of the memorial before his passing and he thought it was great that it would involve all of his friends and family,” said Rich Falvey. “He couldn’t have asked for more.”
Rich Falvey said his father first became involved with the reenactments at AHEC eight years ago and quickly became a staple at the living history events.
“People would come just to see him,” said Rich Falvey. “He was really good at talking to kids, especially. People meant so much to him.”
The parachute demonstration and memorial service, Rich Falvey says, further exemplifies the interwoven way Falvey viewed his life.
Before ending his dedication speech, Rich Falvey shared one last facet of his father’s magnanimous personality and the quote that he says now remains forever immortalized, engraved on a boulder on Falvey’s farm in Hammondsport.
“My father had a saying that explained his life,” said Rich Falvey. “He would say, ‘I have been kissed by an angel, dared to be a Daniel, to have a rendezvous with destiny.’”
*Editor's Note: This article was changed to reflect the correct airborne division participating in the D-Day attack on Normandy. 8:48 a.m. 10/2/12