By: Friedrich Seiltgen
Copyright © 2022
Tom Rice was a warrior, a teacher, and a national treasure till the end. He passed away at his home in Coronado, California at the age of 101.
Rice was born August 15, 1921 in Coronado, California and in 1940 he began school at San Diego State University majoring in engineering. As the war raged on, Rice enlisted in the Army in 1943 and was sent to Camp Toccoa in the North Georgia mountains to start training. After a total of 19 months, he joined the 101st Airborne and was sent to England from Ft. Benning. After arriving, Rice began training for the invasion of Europe code named “Operation Overlord” with his regiment, the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division.
On June 6th, 1944, loaded down with 100 pounds of gear, Tom Rice was the first man in his stick of 18 out of the door from his C-47 Dakota and jumped into Normandy, France, on D-Day. He joined some 18,000 paratroopers who jumped on that day in the largest invasion in history.
After landing, the group re-assembled and secured the roads in Cotentin, France. At 8pm on D-Day, Tom was one of 280 paratroopers who captured the Barquette Lock in Basse-Abbeville.
After securing France, the Screaming Eagles returned to England and began training for their next mission, Operation Market Garden. On September 17, 1944, the unit jumped into the Netherlands and began their march to Belgium’s Ardennes region. While fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, Tom was wounded by a German sniper.
Tom recovered in a field hospital in Belgium and was discharged in December 1945.
He was awarded a Bronze Star with an oak leaf cluster and a Purple Heart with two clusters for his actions during those campaigns.
Tom returned to Coronado and started his 44-year career as a history teacher and coach at Chula Vista High School and Hilltop High School where they named the school library after him. He married a fellow teacher, became a father to 5 children, and wrote a book about his WWII experience.
Rice began jumping into former battle zones in memory of his fallen brothers. He returned to Normandy and jumped in 1994 for the 50th anniversary commemoration of D-Day. He jumped again in 2019 for the 75th anniversary at the age of 97, followed by another jump a few days later in Holland to celebrate Operation Market Garden. Rice says he made the jumps to honor those from his fellow 101st Airborne Division paratroopers who died in the war stating, “I came home, and they didn’t…I don’t want anybody to forget them.”
His final jump was in 2021 when he jumped onto the beach in Coronado, California to celebrate his 100th birthday.
A memorial service for Tom is scheduled for December 3rd at the Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church in Coronado, followed by burial at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.
That’s all for now folks! Please keep sending in your questions, tips, and article ideas. And as always – “Let’s Be Careful Out There.”
Friedrich Seiltgen is a retired Master Police Officer with 20 years of service with the Orlando Police Department. He conducts training in Lone Wolf Terrorism Counterstrategies, Firearms, and Active Shooter Response. His writing has appeared in RECOIL, Floridajolt.com, The Counter Terrorist Magazine, American Thinker, Homeland Security Today, and The Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International. Contact him at [email protected]