The Leader of the Band …

Major Dick Winters ... leader of Easy Company, 101st airborne

We “Baby Boomers” have a lot of things in common.

For one thing we aren’t getting any younger and for another, many of us have suffered in comparison to our Fathers who have been lauded as “The Greatest Generation” … any way you look at it, that’s a pretty hard act to follow!

My Dad graduated high school and immediately joined what was then called The US Army Air Corps (later the US Air Force) in 1943.  He successfully went through basic training and flight school to became a pilot of a B-25 bomber, serving over Burma in 1944-45. 

A the tender age of 19, he was in charge of taking a complicated and expensive piece of equipment and the heavy responsibility for 4 other human beings into harms way with the Japanese constantly trying to bring them down.

Dad, just out of flight school in 1943


If we’re honest … today, most of us are  hesitant to let out 19 year-old kids take our new car for a spin around the block.

Dad is still alive and still enjoying himself at the age of 85 which makes me very happy every day.  He remains my personal hero. 

But, I digress …

Today, we learned that we had  lost one of the higher profile members of this rapidly  shrinking fraternity.  Today we found out that Major Dick Winters … Commander of Easy Company of the 101st Airborne and central character in the highly praised book and HBO mini-series “Band of Brothers” has died at age 92.

For those who loved the book and marveled at the grit and realism of the mini-series, the idea of Major Winters being gone is practically a personal loss.  He was described as an almost perfect military commander.  A humble and self-effacing man who not only was devoted to his men, but was completely focused on performing his duty.

While I certainly did not know Major Dick Winters personally, thanks to author Stephen Ambrose, producer Tom Hanks, and director Steven Spielberg, I felt close to him and feel particularly sad at his passing.

Perhaps his story has been exaggerated … I don’t know.  Certainly Easy Company was a very small part of the 101st Airborne and there were a lot of other heroes whose story did not get the high-profile treatment that Dick Winters and his men received.

Obviously there were thousands of heroes and it is inevitable that some will have their stories told while others will dwell in obscurity.  They all deserve our respect and they all must be remembered.

It seems unlikely that we will ever see another set of circumstances like that which produced this most admired generation or a group of individuals so prepared and willing to deal with those circumstances that this generation labeled “The Greatest” faced … these heroes like Dick Winters … or my Dad … or your own Dad or Grandfather. 

Treasure them while they are with us … remember them when they are gone.

About Judson

Late bloomer ... aspiring writer and musician.
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2 Responses to The Leader of the Band …

  1. nrhatch says:

    Wonderful tribute, Judson.

    I understand what you mean about “losing” someone you’ve never even met. When I watch “The Glenn Miller Story” and his plane goes down . . . it’s sad.

    When I listen to “Leader of the Band” by Fogelberg . . . it’s sad.

    When I think about the passing of the baton from one generation to the next . . . it’s sad.

    Another auld lang syne . . .

  2. educlaytion says:

    Great piece. I read Dick Winters autobiography last year. Amazing. Those guys are all so unassuming like they were just doing their job, but we know better. Heroes every last one of them. Thanks for writing these thoughts down.

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