The national news story caught me off guard, as many seem to. The NBC Nightly news on July 15th reported in their next to last story, the passing of "Darryl 'Shifty' Powers".
My jaw dropped, and I knew that I had dropped the ball. I had always intended to look this man up, ever since seeing his wartime story in the HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers." I thought he lived in the Huntington area, but I had never checked him out yet.
The 10 part maxi-series traces the true-life story of Easy Company, paratroopers who participated in all of the major campaigns of WWII in Europe.
"Shifty" Powers was a very like-able fellow, as portrayed in the mini-series, and apparently an expert marksman. His character comes up again and again in the series, as he becomes a readily identifiable survivor of the War in Europe.
I had always meant to look the man up and tell him how much this mini-series means to me...how I sit and watch it every time it comes on, (to the dismay of my family.) The History Channel appears to have a long-term contract to air it every veterans day, D-Day anniversary. and periodically throughout the year.
I immediately started to dwell on the man, and wondered how best to honor him now. Should I send a wreath? Drop his family a card? Make a news story out of it? What could I personally do that wouldn't look like a kook or a stalker?
Instead, I thought I'd drop a line to the commander of Easy Company, Major Dick Winters, who still survives near Lancaster, PA.I penned a short card, telling him how much the mini-series had taught me, and that I didn't want to miss the opportunity to thank him.
But I also wanted to do something for "Shifty" Powers. (I'm not sure of the origin of the nick-name, but it isn't an insult. It's affectionate, as it's used throughout the series.)
I decided to contact WSAZ, our sister station, to suggest that they might do something about his passing. Fortunately, Tim Irr follows these types of stories, and he got back to me immediately. I had confused two veterans... Carwood Lipton (from Huntington) and Shifty Powers from the Virgina/North Carolina region.
Tim had read of Shifty Powers passing, and gave me a great link to a WSAZ story about Lipton that had been done in the past. It seems that I had missed Carwood Lipton's passing by quite a bit. It makes me want to reach out the remaining "stars" of Easy Company even more.
However, a website devoted to Major Dick Winters somewhat sums it up. It announces that the Winters family is not accepting unsolicited mail from unknown persons anymore.... that "it's time to retire".
Still, I've got to try.
I'm not asking for anything in return. Just a heartfelt thanks from a baby-boomer who has learned something about dedication, honor, war, and the incredible sacrifice the Greatest Generation made at the turning point of history.
The current generation doesn't understand. But they might... if they watch "Band of Brothers" at their public library or on the History Channel when next it is available.
In the meantime, here's Tim Irr's link to the WSAZ story. It's worth reading.
Here's how you can participate in a virtual memorial service. Read through the entire entry to learn how. It's very moving!