Monday, 2 November 2009

One Less

I am posting a message that was sent to me today by an old friend, former colleague and TA soldier. It's about a man us Hogdays feel we knew quite well, although we've never met him in person. The e mail I received is not an `urban legend` because I checked it out and it is true. It's about a man called Darrell Powers, known to his Brothers in Arms and anyone who has seen the HBO TV series Band of Brothers as "Shifty". Shifty volunteered for the airborne in WWII and served with Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st Airborne Infantry. If you've seen Band of Brothers on HBO or the History Channel, you know Shifty. His character appears in all 10 episodes, and Shifty himself is interviewed in several of them.I met Shifty in the Philadelphia airport several years ago. I didn't know who he was at the time. I just saw an elderly gentleman having trouble reading his ticket. I offered to help, assured him that he was at the right gate, and noticed the "Screaming Eagle," the symbol of the 101st Airborne, on his hat

Making conversation, I asked him if he'd been in the 101st Airborne or if his son was serving. He said quietly that he had been in the 101st. I thanked him for his service, then asked him when he served,and how many jumps he made.

Quietly and humbly, he said "Well, I guess I signed up in 1941 or so, and was in until sometime in 1944 .. . . " at which point my heart skipped.

At that point, again, very humbly, he said "I made the 5 training jumps at Toccoa, and then jumped into Normandy . . . . do you know where Normandy is?" At this point my heart stopped.

I told him "yes, I know exactly where Normandy is, and I know what D-Day was." At that point he said "I also made a second jump into Holland , into Arnhem ." I was standing with a genuine war hero . . . . and then I realized that it was June, just after the anniversary of D-Day..

I asked Shifty if he was on his way back from France , and he said,"Yes. And it's real sad because, these days, so few of the guys are left, and those that are, lots of them can't make the trip." My heart was in my throat and I didn't know what to say.

I helped Shifty get onto the plane and then realized he was back in Coach while I was in First Class. I sent the flight attendant back to get him and said that I wanted to switch seats. When Shifty came forward, I got up out of the seat and told him I wanted him to have it, that I'd take his in coach.

He said "No, son, you enjoy that seat. Just knowing that there are still some who remember what we did and who still care is enough to make an old man very happy." His eyes were filling up as he said it. And mine are brimming up now as I write this.

Shifty died on June 17, 2009 after fighting cancer.

There was no parade.

No big event in Staples Center .

No wall to wall back to back 24x7 news coverage.

No weeping fans on television.

And that's not right.

Let's give Shifty his own Memorial Service, online, in our own quiet way. Please forward this email to everyone you know. Especially to the veterans.

Rest in peace, Shifty.


Sage said...

That is so sad that we can forget the debt we owe to these men...I remember watching band of brothers, but I found it quite difficult to watch at times.

Hogday said...

Sage, it gets better, deeper and more meaningful the more you watch. Strange as it might seem, it is now high on our list of `essential viewings` whenever we need to feel good about something.

Anonymous said...

When I think about the enormity of what the people fighting in WW2 faced and did and the fact that they succeeded against the odds and didn't consider giving in, I am just in awe.

Anonymous said...

Hats off and a sincere moment of silence at my house for all the heroes. They were men who made many of us look small.

Hogday said...

Hi NickieG. Yup, once in a while we need to take a look over our shoulders to remind ourselves just how big some of the shoes are we're trying to fill.

Stressed Out Cop said...

Great post and Tribute

Hogday said...

SoC. Thanks for the visit. Stay in touch, as you're always welcome.