Some thoughts on the passing of Dick Winters, commander of WWII’s Easy Company
Millions of us who read or watched “Band of Brothers”, already shocked by recent events in Arizona, have been saddened to hear of another death – that of Dick Winters, the commander of Easy Company, the unit chronicled in “Brothers”.
But Dick Winters did not want to be remembered as an extraordinary American hero – even though he was, by many measures. Winters was a moral and modest man who fought when he had to, but did not relish the prospect of killing, and no doubt he’d prefer that we remember him for that.
Winters was not an individual who gloated in victory, either personally – when he was exonerated against petty accusations made by a superior officer – or nationally. He did his job well, then went home; we only learned who he and his unit were, and what they risked, due to the work of Stephen Ambrose and then Tom Hanks (and Graham Yost, et al). Then he was quick to remind people of the hard work by the enlisted men of his unit. Those men, he felt, were the real heroes.
Meanwhile, he saw himself as just a “ninety day wonder” (a lucky college graduate given a few months of leadership training). His modesty and willingness to fight alongside his men, coupled with his analytical and tactical skills, was one of the reasons he stirred up such devotion.
Business and bank leaders, who deem themselves worthy of golden parachutes, need to ask themselves whether they have what it takes to be like Dick Winters – a man who led in uncertain times, while being grateful and appreciative of the people whose talent, skills and hard work he harnessed to a greater end.
In light of his passing, we should reconsider who our “heroes” are.
Any time you want, you can turn on the Internet or the television news, and learn about horrendous, awful events occuring in the world. But the truth is, there are millions of quiet people like Dick Winters in the world. They’re not all soldiers – Winters, after all, retired to a factory and then a farm. But they are good people trying to do right by others, trying to lead by example, but not clamoring for attention.
When we remember that, and honor the many good things we see in our neighbors and friends, we keep Dick Winters’ spirit alive.