Major Richard Winters, the man made famous first by Stephen Ambrose’s “Band of Brothers,” and later by the mini-series with the same name, passed away a few days ago.
He had lived most of his life on a peaceful farm in his home state of Pennsylvania, fulfilling a vow he made to himself during the Normandy invasion. “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.” (IMDB)
He was the type of leader we all wished we would become one day: capable, decisive, and – more importantly – loved and respected by his men. He led from the front. His leadership qualities were recognized by the Army, and in the span of four years he was promoted from Private to Major. After WWII he served briefly as an instructor during the Korean War, then returned to Pennsylvania to live out his long life.
By all accounts he was humble and happy to deflect praise toward those with whom he served. He told the story of a question his grandson asked him, “Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?” “Grandpa said, ‘No. But I served in a company of heroes.'”
Had Ambrose told the story of someone else, Major Winters would have been like hundreds of thousands of other WWII veterans who served and lived their lives in relative obscurity, their heroics eventually lost to history. But we were lucky and Richard Winters and Easy Company became a part of our lives.
Major Richard Winters is our hero of the week.
His obituary can be read here.