Monday, June 13, 2011

Chuck Yeager remembers "Shifty" Powers -- American heroes both.

Band Of Brothers Hero, Darrell 'Shifty' Powers Dies
DARRYL "SHIFTY" POWERS
The Band of Brothers hero died two years ago this week.




"Shifty" By Chuck Yeager

THIS TOUCHING REMEMBRANCE OF SHIFTY POWERS, WRITTEN BY U.S. SPACE HERO CHUCK YEAGER, WAS PROVIDED BY ANDREW KOEPPEL OF WILMINGTON, NC 


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 is, and I know what D-Day was." 

Then 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 who 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 l7 2009 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.

Chuck Yeager, Maj. General [ret.]


THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE WAS PUBLISHED JUNE 20, 2009 IN THE BRISTOL VA HERALD COURIER:


Darrell “Shifty” Powers, one of the soldiers depicted in “Band of Brothers,” passed away on Wednesday, June 17, 2009.

BY ROGER BROWN

“The world depended on them. They depended on each other.”

That was the tagline for “Band of Brothers” – an award-winning 2001 HBO mini-series drama on the World War II experiences of Easy Company, a U.S. Army unit that fought bravely and fiercely across Europe.
But for Bristol’s Margo Johnson – daughter of Darrell “Shifty” Powers, one of the soldiers depicted in “Band of Brothers” – two more lines could be added to describe her heroic father: “The world truly admired Darrell Powers. I absolutely adored him.”

“I loved everything about my daddy,” Johnson said. “He never bragged about what he did in the war. And for a lot of years, he never even talked much about what he did – unless someone asked him about it.
“But he truly was a hero to me,” Johnson said. “Just like he’d been to the people who know him as a soldier in a [mini-series].”

Powers, a Dickenson County native, died earlier this week at age 86 following a battle with cancer. His funeral service will be held today in Clintwood.

“He was a brave man, even to the end of his life,” Johnson said of her father. “He’s helping me be brave now, too.”

Bravery – and dignity – was a constant, running thread in the life of “Shifty” Powers, both during and after his life as an Army sharpshooter in the actual “Band of Brothers.”

During the war, he fought brutal battles against the German army across France and Belgium.

After the war, Powers served as an eloquent representative for the men he fought with: At one point during the “Band of Brothers” mini-series, he appeared on camera to talk in moving, humane fashion about his grim but necessary task during the war – killing the enemy.

And, too, Powers served as a loyal, steadfast representative for the country he fought for: from graciously meeting with a former enemy German soldier to eagerly accepting any chance to speak with modern-day members of the U.S. military.

Ivan Schwarz, a producer on the “Band of Brothers” HBO series, remembers Powers as a “kind, generous soul with a great sense of humor.”

“Shifty was an incredibly humble human being,” said Schwarz, now executive director of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission in Cleveland, Ohio.

 “He was like most of the other [Easy Company] soldiers we met for the series. They were good guys who were kind of shocked that, 50 years later, people were making a big deal over them for just doing their duty.
“That’s exactly how [Powers] was, too,” Schwarz said.

rbrown@bristolnews.com | (276) 645-2512