Former paratroopers inducted into 82nd Airborne Division Hall of Fame

— For the first time, 21 former paratroopers were inducted into the 82nd Airborne Division Hall of Fame on Wednesday as part of All American Week.

Retired CSM Kenneth “Rock” Merritt, 95, was one of those to be inducted. He jumped into Normandy during World War II on D Day.

Merritt was giving the Silver Star among other outstanding awards.

Some of the others who were inducted included, retired CSM Ted Gaweda, a Polish-born immigrant liberated from a Nazi labor camp who served in combat operations with the 82nd Airborne in the Dominican Republic and Grenada and served twice as the 3rd Brigade Combat Team CSM and CSM of the 18th Airborne Corps.

Retired Gen. Ann Dunwoody was the first female battalion commander in the 82nd Airborne Division and the first female four-star general in American history. She served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Dunwoody said her gender never got in the way of her being an outstanding soldier.

“I never thought of myself as a woman soldier. I thought of myself as a soldier and as a paratrooper,” she said. “My niece is an A-10 pilot. I thought jumping out of airplanes was cool, and she‘s flying A-10s in Afghanistan. I look at women going to Ranger school, and I‘m so proud of them and the doors that continue to open.”

Dunwoody said that, when she came into the 82nd Airborne, women made up only 2 percent of the force.