I don’t even quite remember how we got on the subject or why my dad suggested that we start watching it (and it’s a fourth or fifth re-watch for him and my mom)…but somehow about a week or so ago, I started watching Band of Brothers.
GUYS. This show. I haven’t fallen this deep into a fandom since Spring 2015 when I turned into a raving Trekkie–and yes, Band of Brothers is considered a fandom, albeit a history-based one–and GUYS GUYS GUYS. It’s amazing.
This 10-part HBO miniseries first aired in 2001, so it’s a little over 15 years old. 15 years ago I was only 10, and I’ve always been a bit leery of it because of my dad’s warnings about language and violence…so that explains why it’s taken me this long to finally get into it. Yes, there is realistic WWII violence, and I try to mentally bleep out the cussing–but the rest of it is, in my opinion, absolutely worth it.
Band of Brothers is based on (and extremely faithful to) Stephen Ambrose’s book by the same name. It’s the story of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division…a company of paratroopers whose unbreakable bond saw them through the D-Day invasion of Normandy, the disastrous Operation Market Garden in Holland, and the Battle of the Bulge. They gained a reputation as some of the toughest, fastest, and most daring soldiers in the European Theater before finally making it to the finish line: Hitler’s Berchtesgaden fortress, the “Eagle’s Nest.”
But what makes Easy Company so fascinating and endearing is that aforementioned bond between the men. Their motto, “Currahee” (the name of the steep hill where they’d have training exercises in Georgia) means “We stand alone together”–and that’s exactly what they did. Even after the war, they maintained close friendships with each other. Fifteen of them are still alive.
I just finished the sixth (and absolutely heartbreaking) episode, “Bastogne.” I’m finally at the point where I can pretty much recognize all of the prominent characters on the spot. (Reading the book at the same time helps with that, as well as dedicating a Pinterest board to the show.) Dick Winters, Ronald Spiers, Lewis Nixon, Bill Guarnere, Harry Welsh, Buck Compton, Joe Toye, George Luz, Don Malarkey, Ed Heffron and Eugene Roe…these are all my new friends and heroes.
There are plenty of others, of course, but those are the ones I know (and love) the best so far. Luz is absolutely hilarious. Guarnere and Toye are tough as nails. Buck Compton is a big blue-eyed cinnamon roll. Spiers is…well, Spiers is rather scary in a rather cool way. Malarkey is adorable, smol, and sassy. Roe is a soft-spoken Cajun. And you mustn’t ever call Heffron anything other than “Baaaaaabe.”
But as heroic and lovable as they all are, their leader is the most heroic and lovable. And I know from my eager devouring of anything and everything about Easy Company that they would not argue with me on this point.
Dick Winters…oh gosh, y’all.
Remember how I said that nobody had supplanted Jim Kirk in my heart last year? Jim Kirk just got kicked down several notches.
And Dick Winters was real. As in “not fictional.” As in “this guy actually lived.” You know how certain
kill-joys people always say about our favorite characters, “Eh, nobody is that wonderful in real life?” or “nobody could possibly be that lucky in battle except for George Washington with his bullet-riddled coat?”
Well, that’s just because they never heard of Dick Winters.
He was a Pennsylvanian, born and raised, who believed in working hard, making the best use of his time, and investing in himself so he could be a better citizen and leader of men. He was a fearless soldier, yet Stephen Ambrose called him “the gentlest of men.” He didn’t drink, didn’t swear, didn’t go off carousing with the ladies–but he wasn’t snooty about it. His men knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he cared about them, and his humble courage and battlefield brilliance was respected by everyone. (Well, everyone except for the first, mean-spirited captain of Easy Company, who resented Winters’ popularity with the rest of the soldiers.)
One of the Easy Company men wrote in a letter to Winters after the war, “Dick…you are loved.”
I watch and read about Winters, and I see the kind of man I’ve always admired, whether real or fictional: a compassionate, courageous, intelligent, thoughful leader, with an unshakeable sense of right and wrong. He inspires and encourages me so much–not just as an amazing example of the Greatest Generation, but as a man of solid, honest, gentle character.
I’m sure this won’t be the last time I talk about this amazing miniseries or its characters on this blog…so there’s your heads-up that we’ve got a new obsession in town 😉 In the meantime, enjoy this video of Katherine Jenkins singing the theme song. In fact, if you love epic, heartstring-tugging music and just listen to the whole soundtrack on YouTube. You won’t regret it.