Early this year, the Veteran community lost one of its very best: Major Richard ‘Dick’ Winters passed away at age 92. He was the XO for Easy Company, 2/506 of the 101st when the unit conducted a combat jump into German held Normandy. When his commander did not report (later he would be identified as KIA), then Lieutenant Winters took command of Easy. What followed was one of the most legendary stories of small unit infantry action. Under the command of Winters, Easy Company led an assault on a fixed artillery position that was firing on the causeways leading out of Utah Beach. Easy’s fifteen men overtook a fifty man Wehrmacht platoon and destroyed the guns. The aggressive assault on the batteries was not only instrumental in an Allied victory in Normandy, but it instructed future leaders for years to come. The assault is still taught to West Point cadets today.
The exploits of Major Winters became widely known after the book and miniseries Band of Brothers, where a generation seemingly disconnected from World War II was introduced to history that changed the world. The series premiere had a rendezvous with destiny all its own: the show debuted just two days before September 11, 2001. The country was in a fragile state after the attacks, and many found inspiration and hope watching the characters of Easy Company, lead by Major Winters. The men of Easy became celebrities afterward, particularly Major Winters. One can only gather that his humility persevered long after the war.
Major Richard Winters continues to be a national treasure and I’m certain he will continue to inspire the country for generations to come. Our deepest gratitude goes out to his family, both by law and the family forged in Normandy, Holland and Bastogne. Truly a company of heroes.