Tuesday, February 1, 2011


That night, I thanked God for seeing me through that day of days and prayed I would make it through D plus 1. I also promised that if some way I could get home again, I would find a nice peaceful town and spend the rest of my life in peace.
--Major Dick Winters, as quoted in the film Band of Brothers

[Last month, we lost one more star from the heavens, with the passage of Major Richard “Dick” Winters, commander of “Easy Company,” whose fate during the invasion of Normandy served as a basis for the film Band of Brothers. In Dick Winters one found a moving combination of Humility, Strength, and Humor, but tonight we will honor him as an avatar of Leadership.
Winters was an exemplary man from an exemplary generation. From the first time I worked with the WWII vets on the medicine service at Fort Miley in San Francisco, I was struck by their Graciousness, Grit, and Affability. Tom Brokaw is right to call them The Greatest Generation. In this time of crisis in our nation’s history, we would do well to turn to these venerables, so few of whom are still with us.
Otis "Sam" Sampson
I had the good fortune recently to get to know a living survivor of the Parachute Infantry, Otis “Sam” Sampson, who celebrated his 100th birthday on January 19th at a local Italian restaurant. Even at 100 years of age, Sam is lucid and kind and funny. He wrote a book about his own experiences in the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, called Time Out for Combat. Visiting with him at my hospital’s tent at the Palm Springs weekly Village Fest, I was reminded of the nobility of his generation. They really do show the best of what this country has to offer, and they make me proud to be American.
My twin Kael has a fondness for WWII stories, and it was he who suggested we honor Dick Winters in Ten Thousand Virtues. I'd had another topic planned for today, but I’ll save it in favor of “the Winters’ Tale.” His story recalls that of Cincinnatus, the hero of Rome, who went from farmer, to soldier, to reluctant dictator, to humble farmer once again. Both men show us Auctoritas... Jen... Self-Possession. A consistent theme among those who served under Winters was his ability to inspire his men. He never asked anything of anyone that he didn't ask from himself. And like most true heroes, he didn't take himself too seriously, and was all too happy to pass along the mantle of Leadership. What follows is an obituary of Winters from his hometown paper:]

Dick Winters, who inspired 'Band of Brothers,' remembered as an American hero
By Lara Brenckle, The Patriot-News

His life story was writ large, a hero ready-made for Hollywood who helped save the nation during its darkest hour.

But that, Dick Winters’ friends said, was Hollywood.
In real life, Winters, whose leadership in Easy Company, 506th regiment of the 101st Airborne Division was commemorated in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, based on the Stephen Ambrose book, shied from the spotlight.
And when Winters died Jan. 2 at an assisted-living facility in Campbelltown, his final wish — a totally private funeral — befit a man who lived through extraordinary circumstances but never considered himself anything more than a man doing his duty, his longtime friend William S. Jackson said Sunday night...

Filmmaker Brian Kreider of Derry Township met Winters through his job in the Pennsylvania Film Office.
Winters was pushing for some of Band of Brothers to be filmed in Pennsylvania, and Kreider helped scout locations. The two later worked on a documentary and lecture series in which Winters discussed his experiences between clips from Band of Brothers.
A born leader
Winters was a natural leader, Kreider said.
“There’s no question you would follow him,” he said.
His Warmth and Strength were augmented by a wonderful sense of Humor, Kreider said...
State House of Representative’s Democratic leader Frank Dermody called Winters “a real-life American hero.”
“He led hundreds of young men through some of the toughest fighting the world has known, but at his core he was a peaceful man,” Dermody said. “In everything he did, he served honorably.”
Born in Ephrata on Jan. 21, 1918, to Richard and Edith Winters, Winters moved to nearby Lancaster when he was 8, according to his biography. He graduated from Lancaster Boys High School in 1937 and from Franklin & Marshall College in 1941.
Winters and his troops from Easy Company parachuted behind enemy lines to take on a German artillery nest on Utah Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944. His company fought through the Battle of the Bulge, the liberation of a death camp at Dachau and to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest at Berchtesgaden.
The war described in Band of Brothers is ugly, but the young men developed character under fire, Winters said in interviews. He was glad the miniseries showed war realistically, not glorified or demonized as in so many movies.
He wanted people to understand that success in war depends not on heroics but on Bonding, character, getting the job done and “Hanging Tough,” his lifelong motto. In combat, he wrote 50 years after the war, “Your reward for a good job done is that you get the next tough mission.”
Home from the war
After the war, he fulfilled the pledge he made to himself in the midst of the D-Day chaos: If he survived the war, he would find a nice, quiet place and live in peace.

He married Ethel, bought a bucolic farm in Fredericksburg, raised two children and worked in the agricultural feed business. He didn’t talk about the war until Ambrose wanted to put Easy Company’s exploits on paper.
“When the book [Band of Brothers] came out, he sent it to me at the paper with a note, saying, ‘I don’t know if this is worth writing about,’" Jackson recalled with a laugh.
Following the miniseries, Winters turned down most requests for interviews because he said he didn’t want to appear as if he was bragging. But he did feel the story of Easy Company was an important one, especially for young people.
He was more likely to accept invitations by local school groups and spent time with students at Cedar Crest High School, among others. A talk he gave at Palmyra Middle School drew hundreds of spectators...
Originally published: Monday, January 10, 2011, 12:10 AM. Staff writers Liam Migdail-Smith, Monica von Dobeneck, Jan Murphy and Mary Klaus contributed to this report.
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May we see the gates of Leadership, and perhaps make a home there.

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