Eulogy for 101 year-old WWII Veteran and CrossFitter Tom Rice

November 27, 2022 by
Photo Credit: United States Army
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Tom Rice, a World War II veteran with the Screaming Eagles, passed away in his sleep at 12:33 AM on November 17. He was 101 years old. 

One big thing: Rice, who was born on Aug. 15, 1921, joined the United States Army in 1940. He served with the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division during World War II, and he saw extensive action. For example, Rice was one of 13,000 paratroopers who jumped into Normandy on D-Day. 

  • Rice fought in the Battle of the Bulge, which lasted from December 16, 1944, until January 16, 1945. Rice was also one of the soldiers who captured Adolf Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest, the Nazi-constructed building sitting at the summit of the Kehlstein.
  • Rice was shot twice by a sniper during the Battle of Bulge, and he had to recover at a hospital in Belgium. His time in the military came to an end on December 21, 1945, with an honorable discharge. 
  • Following the war, Rice finished his degree and turned to teaching. He spent over 40 years teaching at Chula Vista High School, Hilltop High School, and Southwestern Junior College. In 2004, he released his memoir, “Trial by Combat: A Paratrooper of the 101st Airborne Division Remembers the 1944 Battle of Normandy.”

In 2019, the Best Defense Foundation brought Rice back to Normandy in honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day. He jumped from a C-47 over France as part of the Battlefield Return Program. 

  • In 2021, Rice jumped from a plane once again. He celebrated his 100th birthday by parachuting with the Leap Frogs and landing on his hometown beach in front of Hotel Del Coronado in California. He was able to make a standing landing. 

Rice trained for both of his jumps in an interesting way. He went to CrossFit Coronado and worked with owner Clint Russell. According to ABC10 San Diego, this schedule included two training sessions each week. Russell, a United State Navy veteran, also accompanied Rice to France for the 75th anniversary of D-Day and made the jump with Rice. 

  • As Russell explained, Rice continued to train at CrossFit Coronado after the jump in Normandy. He made significant progress, especially in regard to his posture. Russell, who has a doctorate in Physical Therapy, focused specifically on right leg strength, balance, and aerobic capacity during these sessions. 
  • Russell and Rice used a variety of machines, such as the rower, Assault bike, and SkiErg. Russell also had the legend carry objects to keep his heart rate elevated.

“The most important thing to remember with someone this age is mechanics, consistency, and only then intensity,” Russell told “Coronado News” in 2019. “I wouldn’t push someone this age, I’d let them set the pace, slow down when needed, and above all else make sure the mechanics are sound.”

Rice continued to take part in jumps throughout his legendary life.According to Black Rifle Coffee Company’s editorial arm, “Coffee or Die,” he estimated that he had performed 63 jumps in his life. 48 of these were during his time in the Army. Rice also had another jump planned for February.

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