A True American Hero

US Army Major Richard “Dick” Winters (ret.), WWII veteran who led Easy Company, 506th Infantry regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, passed away on January 2. He was just 19 days shy of his 93rd birthday. I didn’t hear about it until late last night, when Yahoo! News posted it. According to other reports, he had battled Parkinson’s disease before his death.

Winters and the men of Easy Company were made famous in the docu-drama Band of Brothers, which has long been my favorite WWII miniseries. I could quote each and every episode. The book that had originally been written by Stephen Ambrose is also one of my favorites. I had not been able to procure a copy of Winters’ missive, “Beyond Band of Brothers,” but I plan on buying it next week and will review it here.

In “Band of Brothers”, Winters described a promise he’d made. He promised God that if he made it through the war, he’d settle down and live a quiet life. He did exactly that. He never mentioned his experiences during the war until Stephen Ambrose asked him to help chronicle Easy Company’s hard fight to reach Germany from France and all of the battles, both won and lost, along the way. Major Winters received the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroism in taking a series of mortar cannons during the D-Day invasion at Normandy and a movement has sprung up in recent years to upgrade the medal to a Medal of Honor (contrary to popular belief, it is not a “Congressional” award; it is officially simply the Medal of Honor).

Major Winters had asked that his death not be announced publicly until after a private funeral was held. A public funeral is yet to be announced. In the past decade he had been showered with requests for interviews; he often declined and did not think of himself as a hero. The only reason he ever gave interviews to Stephen Ambrose and the Band of Brothers miniseries was because he believed that future generations needed to understand what was given so they could be free.

Rest in peace, sir. Thank Almighty God for you and your willingness to serve.

January 21, 1918 – January 2, 2011