Archive for Band of Brothers

A Band of Brothers Like No Other

Posted in People with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2011 by Jordan

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother…

Henry V – Act 4, Scene 3

These words from King Henry to his men before heading into battle in Shakespeare’s Henry V epitomize the bond that few occupations posses.  Firefighters are among these few.

Today, my home town of Listowel laid two of its finest firefighters to rest after they gave the town their lives while responding to a massive downtown fire on March 17, 2011. The joint funerals of Ken Rae and Ray Walter at Listowel Memorial Arena not only celebrated the lives of these two remarkable men but accentuated the unique brotherhood that all firefighters share.  Thousands of fireman from across the continent congregated in the tiny community to pay their respects to their fallen comrades. They created a sea of black that snaked for several kilometers down Main Street as they filed behind the hearses destined for the arena.

As I watched the funeral procession and service online today, I was overwhelmed with feelings of both sadness and pride. The feelings of sadness are obvious but the pride that filled my chest as I watched thousands of men and women in black uniforms flank the streets of Listowel was incredible.  I was proud because nameless firefighters reached out to a shaken community in a time of need. I was proud because I knew this overwhelming support helped the people of Listowel stand on their feet during a time when many wanted to lie down. I was proud to see the international firefighting community stand together and pay their respects to their fallen brothers.  And finally, I was proud to know that their are literally thousands of men and women that are willing to put it all on the line to protect their communities the same way Ken and Ray did should the fateful call arise.

The risks firefighters face on a daily basis are often mitigated and overlooked by their remarkable skills; however, the events in Listowel on March 17, 2011 are a humbling reminded of these risks.  Firefighters stand together, succeed together and grieve together.  They truly are a remarkable band of brothers.

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Major Dick Winters

Posted in History, People with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2011 by Jordan

Last night a tweet from Tom Hanks informed me that one of my heroes died last week.  Major Dick Winters died on January 2nd at the age of 92 after succumbing to a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

 

An ordinary man in his own eyes, Maj. Winters rose to fame in 1992 with the publication of Stephen Ambrose’s book Band of Brothers.  This bestseller documents the story of Maj. Winters and E Company of the 506th Regiment in the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army from D Day to VE Day.  Maj. Winters obtained his place in mainstream infamy in 2001 when Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks produced the story of Maj. Winters and E Company in a 10 part mini series based on Ambrose’s bestseller also called Band of Brothers.

 

A couple of years ago I picked up Maj. Winters memoirs called Beyond Band of Brothers.  In those memoirs Maj. Winters talked about his desire during the war to make it home safely and live his life in peace.  After the war, Maj. Winters lived a quiet and private life mostly outside of Hersey, Pennsylvania where he worked for himself as a farm supply salesman.  As a decorated war veteran, he is noted for his leadership and ability to lead by example in tough situations. However, he was never comfortable with the term “hero” when describing himself and that is why prior to his passing he requested that his death be kept private until after his funeral, which took place this past week.

 

It’s difficult to say how the story of a man I have never met and that is 66 years older than myself has resonated so deeply within me.  However, I think the appeal of Maj. Winters’ story is that it is one of an ordinary man who did extraordinary things because unforeseen circumstances required it of him.  All the while, he remained humble and indebted to his fellow soldiers.

 

I’m sure there are thousands of stories from WWII that are similar to Maj. Winters but most of those veterans are no longer with us to share their stories.  The average living WWII veteran is in their late 80s and some 1000 WWII veterans die worldwide everyday.  Time is running out to celebrate the lives of these living heroes but thanks to the documentation in Band of Brothers, Major Dick Winter will live in infamy.

 

 

THE PACIFIC

Posted in Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2010 by Jordan

Last night the ten part mini-series THE PACIFIC concluded on HBO and I must say it is without question one of the best portrayals of the Second World War I have ever seen.  The $200 million mini series was produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg and was in many ways the sequel to the 2001 mini-series Band of Brothers also produced by Hanks and Spielberg.

THE PACIFIC tracks the intertwined real-life journeys of three U.S. Marines across the Pacific Theater during World War II.  The miniseries follows these men and their fellow Marines from their first battle with the Japanese on Guadalcanal, through the rain forests of Cape Gloucester and the strongholds of Peleliu, across the bloody sands of Iwo Jima and through the horror of Okinawa, and finally to their triumphant but uneasy return home after V-J Day[1].

As a huge fan of Band of Brothers I was anticipating much of the same type of story when THE PACIFIC debuted in mid March.  After Part 2 I quickly realized that THE PACIFIC was quite different from Band of Brothers and I thoroughly questioned whether THE PACIFIC had delivered as well as its predecessor.  It was after probably the third or fourth episode that it dawned on me what the fundamental difference was between THE PACIFIC and Band of Brothers.  The first time I watched Band of Brothers I was overcome with feelings of pride, patriotism and even a desire to enlist in the armed forces.  Band of Brothers’ European setting has a feel of glory, adventure and heroism about it, which left me wishing I were in my twenties in the early 1940s so that I could do my part in the war effort.  THE PACIFIC on the other hand paints a very different picture from that of Band of Brothers.  Like Band of Brothers, THE PACIFIC does not shy away from the graphic nature of the Second World War.  However, those who fought in the Pacific theater battled a much different enemy in a much different environment.  The battles in the Pacific were fought on pieces of land most people had never heard of opposed to romantic and world-class cities like Paris and Rome.  There was a good quote in Part 10 of THE PACIFIC from an American cab driver to one of THE PACIFIC’s main characters Robert Leckie.  The cab driver, that was a veteran of the Normandy invasion waved Leckie’s cab fare upon his return home saying, “I may have jumped into Normandy but I had the assets of London and Paris, all you got was jungle rote and malaria.”  To me that was the primary difference between THE PACIFIC and Band of Brothers; Band of Brothers left me wishing I were part of the war where THE PACIFIC left me thankful I was not.

The portrayal of war in THE PACIFIC was so real, graphic and violent it left me mesmerized and forgetting to blink for what felt like entire episodes.  I cannot image myself sitting in water filled holes for weeks at a time and sharing my living space with decaying bodies. THE PACIFIC unquestionably shows the efforts and sacrifices of the ‘Greatest Generation’ in the purest of ways.  My generation will never know and never understand the contributions and sacrifices of those who participated in the Second World War.  However, watching THE PACIFIC is a good start to understanding how the Second Great War broke the minds and souls of so many young men.


[1] HBO CANADA. THE PACIFIChttp://www.hbocanada.com/thepacific/about.php.  May 17, 2010.

 

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