On October 26th, 90-year-old Marguerite Miller jumped from 13,500ft alongside Red Bull skydiving professionals Amy Chmelecki and Sean MacCormac, simultaneously fulfilling her dream to parachute out of a plane and honoring the lives of those she helped protect many years ago.
Being born in Normandy, France, Marguerite Miller had a front row seat to the unfathomable events and living conditions spurred on by World War II. At one of the most pivotal points in human history, Marguerite experienced first-hand what it was like to have the German invaders change her family’s life forever.
When Germany invaded France in the early 1940s, Marguerite’s father was taken to an internment camp just outside of Paris. By the age of 16, her entire family had been imprisoned. After six months of uncertainty and mistreatment, Marguerite, along with her mother and sisters were released from their camp. Unfortunately, their father did not experience the same and found himself held in the camp for the entire duration of the war.
After they were released, Marguerite and her mother and sister were clouded by the control of the German invaders. They were not allowed to return home and were forced to stay in Paris, remaining under strict German surveillance.
Having very meager means and little income, Marguerite and her family lived with a friend, Maud Couve, in Paris. In 1943, Marguerite’s mother, Alice Bourard, and Maud Couve made the courageous decision to join the French Resistance.
As members of the resistance, their role was to hide American and other allied airmen, two at a time, who had been shot down over France. The bold and survival-driven escape of these airmen, parachuting out of their damaged and burning planes, always amazed Marguerite. They would stay, sometimes several weeks at a time, in the apartment they all shared. It was during this time that arrangements would be made for them to escape to England.
These efforts were anything but simplistic as fake papers and proper clothing had to be acquired for them to make their getaway successfully. They had to be meticulous and intentional with every move as they were still being scrutinized by German authorities. They were required to report to them daily and often experienced random home searches in the middle of the night.
This season eventually came to an end when the war concluded and France was liberated from the occupation. However, when the Miller family made their long-awaited return to their home, they found nothing. The war wreaked havoc and left very little in its wake.
In order to rebuild their lives and begin taking back all that the war had taken from them, Marguerite’s family moved to New Jersey to be with family. For her heroism, Marguerite’s mother, Alice Bourard, received distinguished awards from the American and British governments.
Years later, this brave and honorable part of Marguerite’s life seemed to come full circle when she met her late husband, a World War II veteran. They met at an Air Force Escape and Evasion Society reunion because as fate would have it, he himself had been a pilot saved by his parachute escape and the hospitality of members of the French Resistance. While Marguerite and her husband did not meet during the war, they shared an intangible and deeply meaningful bond rooted in their war experiences.
Though filled with challenges and adversity, Marguerite’s courageous history sparked a dream in her to parachute out of a plane. More than being an exhilarating experience, this was the best way Marguerite could imagine stepping into the shoes of those her family protected decades ago.
Wish of a Lifetime, partnering with Red Bull, were honored to send Marguerite skydiving on October 26th, 2018. When Red Bull heard Marguerite’s incomparable story of heroic actions and resilience, they knew they couldn’t miss out on the opportunity to be a part of it. Professional skydivers Amy Chmelecki and Sean MacCormac were ecstatic to be taking to the blue skies with this brave individual.
As the door flung open, Marguerite stood at the edge of the plane putting herself in the shoes of those brave men who made their descent into France many decades ago. She reveled in this opportunity to have her wish come true to parachute out of a plane and to honor the sacrifices she and her family made, and the collective efforts of the French Resistance. Heart pounding and a memory reel flipping through her mind, Marguerite stepped off the edge and soared through the sky.