War Enthusiast Recreates D-Day Experience
COLUMBIA - John Brueck is more than your average World War II enthusiast. He created his company, Normandy Drop Zone Tours, to offer others the chance for a re-created tour of the Invasion of Normandy.
Bruecks passion for war history began as a child, looking through items in an army surplus store.
"What's the story that this helmet tells, this uniform tells, and who wore it? What happened to them, what did they experience?" asked Brueck about the items.
As an adult, he began his own World War II collection, bringing relics back to Columbia from multiple trips to France. He houses his collection in his basement "War Room." Everything in the room is either authentic or an identical replication. Some he found, and others were gifts.
Brueck realized others shared his passion for war history, and the idea for Normandy Drop Zone Tours was born.
"We give them the opportunity to immerse themselves into exactly what it was like for the D-Day drops on June 6, 1944," he said.
Tour participants become the paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st American Airborne Operations. Brueck offers a simulated night drop operation in Normandy, fully equipped with the right uniforms, the right vehicles, and the right weapons. Soldiers must reach their objective and avoid the "Germans."
"This is not your third grade air-conditioned bus trip to the zoo," he said.
Brueck explains the trip isn't easy.
"The element of fear is there. Trust. you don't know where you are. You think you know where you are -- you aren't with the people you were with earlier. There's a sense of helplessness."
Brueck created Normandy Drop Zone Tours as a way to honor and respect the men and women who sacrificed their lives.
"It's about respect. It's to try and put yourself into the shoes and experience just one-one-millionth of what these brave heroes that have given us freedom, experienced, every day, every moment from the time that they landed to the time that they ended up coming home," he said.
Brueck will be leading four tours this summer. For more information, visit the Normandy Drop Zone Tours website.