Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Leader of the Band

Perhaps it was because of the time I spent following the coverage of the heinous events that took place in Arizona this past weekend and learning about the lives of those directly impacted by them. Perhaps it was because my gnat-like attention span simply caused me to miss it. Regardless of the "why", it was not until yesterday morning that I learned of the death of Major Dick Winters.

If you are a person who has neither read Stephen Ambrose's "Band of Brothers" nor watched the epic HBO mini-series of the same name based upon it, then the possibility exists that you do not know who Major Dick Winters was. If you are in that group, then do yourself a favor: make time to make his acquaintance and the acquaintances of the men with whom he served. Get an introduction to the boys in the Band as it were. You not only shall never regret the investment of time, you shall be happy for the rest of your life that you made it.

Winters was the acknowledged leader of an incredible group of men - many of whom were still boys when they were brought together in the 101st Airborne Division as Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. The men of Easy Company were part of the D-Day Invasion in June 1944 and fought their way to Hitler's Eagle's Nest at the end of the war in Europe slightly less than one year later. Their story is an utterly fascinating one, which is made all the more remarkable to me in view of the average age of the members of the group. Imagine if you will a time in America when men of varying ethnic backgrounds, religions, political ideologies and personal beliefs were able to set aside their differences and focus on a common goal. It is not hard to do for it happened. It really did - and not really all that long ago either even if these days it seems more like sixty five million years ago than merely sixty five.

Knowing nothing about him than what I have read and/or watched over the past decade, Winters appears to have been a man who eschewed publicity. He did not seek out the spotlight but much in the same way that water finds its natural level, notoriety and well wishes for what he did while in the service of his country found him. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine gave me a rather extraordinary book. The book is written by Larry Alexander, "Biggest Brother: The Life of Major Dick Winters, The Man Who Led The Band Of Brothers". Add it to your, "Read it and never be sorry for a moment that you did" list also.

In a world of folks who scream for attention, often times for doing nothing of moment at all, Winters was an anomaly. I smiled reading one account of his death, which noted that he had died on January 2, 2011 and had been laid to rest on January 8, 2011 but having instructed those he left behind that his was to be a, "private, unannounced funeral service", his family did not announce his death when it happened. Apparently news of it started to leak out only after he had been buried. Talk about commanding respect of those who follow you. Even after he was dead, his last order was followed to its letter.

So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
So near to God is Man.
When Duty whispers low, "Thou must",
The Youth replies, "I can."

And much like Emerson's Youth, Dick Winters responded each and every time Duty called upon him. Safe journey Major Winters.

-AK

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