Monday, August 10, 2009

Spare a thought

I was forwarded an email a few weeks ago that really made an impact on me. I didn't forward it to anyone at the time because I wasn't sure of anyone I knew that wasn't on the list of recipients with me that would be interested. The following story, written by someone I don't know but I'm glad they shared it, should be of interest to everyone. It says a lot about society today, and about how sometimes our priorities can get out of sorts. So please take a minute and read this story, think about whats really important, and honor a deserving man even if it's just with a thought.

"One of the "Band of Brother" soldiers died on June 17, 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 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 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 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 17th 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."

I don't know how I can add to this man's story, but I'm gonna try. I told this story to two people, and both times it was difficult to fight back tears. I can be get pretty emotional, but I hope this story meant something to you to.

The word hero is thrown around fairly quickly by people today, often in the sports world. Not to say sports doesn't have its heroic figures. Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente are two of the most influential people since World War II. But most heroes never really get their due. Many don't ask to be celebrated. All the more reason we should take some time to remember what they have done.