Thursday, July 16, 2009

We're hearing a lot today about big splashy memorial services.

I want a nationwide memorial service for Darrell "Shifty" Powers.

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 1945 . . . " 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 was, 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 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 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.

"A nation without heroes is nothing."
Roberto Clemente

Bro Cochrane from Texas sent me this in an e-mail and I wanted to share it with you. My grandfather served in WWII, he was in Italy on D-Day, I believe. When ever I read things about WWII, I think of my grandfather and how humble WWII veterans always seem to be. Just like "Shifty" Powers my grandfather was quiet and humble when talking about war in general, and I never remember him talking about any of the conflicts he was personally in. He was a Japenese american and joined the Army shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. (He lived in Hawaii at the time.) One of the most famous battles he was in, was the famous rescue of the "Lost Battalion" at Biffontaine, France. The 442nd suffered the loss of nearly half of its roster—over 800 casualties, including 121 dead—while rescuing 211 members of the 36th Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry, which had been surrounded by German forces in the Vosges mountains since October 24. My grandfather was one of those survivers. I know he watched a lot of his friends die, and that may be one reason he never talked about the war. I couldn't imagine the things he saw.

When I remember my grandfather I wish I would have heard some of these stories first hand but I never thought of asking these things, lets never forget the veterans that are still with us today, the young and the old.

Alton Eiichi Nakama (1921 - 1992)

GO FOR BROKE! (442nd Regimental Infintry moto)


Catherine Roseberry-Meyer said...

Now this is close to my heart for reasons. My father was also in WWII, in Alsace-Lorraine, in the Vosges, all the men in my family (father's side) were in a war or another, and we grew up with their memories. Yes they all saw friends die. My father did talk about one of those times. It was mere inches between him and his friend. He was the one to go to the widows door with last words...
But I know that these men experienced nightmares wide awake, hunger and fear. They were brave men, and honor is due.
Thanks for this beautiful post.
Love you and your family.

Alice said...

I love you too, and thank you for sharing a part of your family also!

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