Friday, July 10, 2009

I'm sorry to say I didn't hear of the death of Shifty Powers

until today, when a friend sent me an e-mail; I'm going to put the text here:

"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 that 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 Normandy . . . . do 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 is 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 17 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.

Let's give Shifty his own Memorial Service, online, in our own quiet way. Please forward this email to everyone you know. Especially to the veterans.

Rest in peace, Shifty.
Publish Post

"A nation without heroes is nothing."
Roberto Clemente"

Added: Go here for something to bring tears to your eyes: A rifle for Shifty


Bram said...

Sad to hear he passed - glad to hear Shifty had a long life.

I heard he was a crack-shot with a Garand.

Thirdpower said...

And the US, no, the world, is diminished by this loss.

Mikey said...

My dad was in the 101st at Bastogne, and I'd heard all the stories told in Band of Brothers, and many more, by the time I was six years old. Not from dad, but from mom. Dad wouldn't talk about it. He's still with us, 83 years old now, and as alert and sharp minded as anyone I know.

He was, is, and always will be my hero.

kaveman said...

Thanks for sharing your experience meeting him.

His spirit is now free to roam.

Firehand said...

Kaveman, I can only wish I'd met the gentleman; that's from a man who did.

Albert A Rasch said...


Outstanding eulogy. I'm linking to it.

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles.

Drumwaster said...

"We can't all be heroes. Somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they walk by." -- Will Rogers.

This is one man I would have applauded with my whole heart. God bless any country that can produce men like him.

Windy Wilson said...

Drum is right. God Bless any country that can produce men like him.
I think it was General Patton who once said that we should not mourn the loss of such men, but we should celebrate the fact that such men lived.

I'll do both.

Anonymous said...

Very moving post, Firehand.

God bless the men and women who put their lives on the line everyday to help a righteous cause.