HERSHEY -- As the flag fluttered in the breeze, 78-year-old Clarence Lyall watched as his former World War II commander Maj. Dick Winters fixed his eyes on it -- the regimental colors of the 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.
"His eyes got as big as saucers, so we knew we had to get it for him," Lyall said, a member of Easy Company, made famous by the 1992 book "Band of Brothers" and an award-winning HBO miniseries that debuted in September 2001.
Yesterday, a year after that incident at a paratrooper re-enactment in Chambersburg, Lyall delivered the flag to Winters at an 85th birthday celebration in the Hershey VFW.
After a host of World War II re-enactors presented the flag, Winters said his 85th year will be all right.
I think 85 is going to be OK," the former commander of E Company said. "We're off to a good start. This is quite an honor."
E Company, or Easy Company, first gained public recognition in 1992 after the publication of the book written by the late historian Stephen Ambrose.
The company parachuted into Nazi-occupied Normandy on D-Day, 60 years ago. It fought in Holland and the Battle of the Bulge and helped capture Hilter's Eagle's Nest.
The story attracted the attention of producer Stephen Spielberg and actor Tom Hanks, who turned it into a 10-hour HBO miniseries. Winters served as an adviser for the miniseries, which won an Emmy in September for best miniseries.
At the Emmy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles, televised by NBC, Winters stood with Spielberg and Hanks while a split screen showed the surviving members of Easy Company watching from a nearby hotel.
"They did a wonderful job telling our stories," Winters said yesterday. "And I want to thank every one of you for your support. I salute you."
About 80 people helped Winters celebrate his birthday yesterday. Most were World War II re-enactors who will participate in Saturday's annual re-enactment of the Battle of the Bulge at Fort Indiantown Gap. The rest included family, friends and well-wishers.
Winters spoke for a few minutes showing gear he saved from his combat days.
He offered a challenge to everyone present.
"Tonight will you go home and look in the mirror," he said. "Answer to yourself, 'Today, I did my best. Today, I helped someone have a good day.' "
Nearby, at the guest-of-honor table, sat Forrest Guth, another member of Easy Company, in town from Delaware to celebrate his former commander's birthday.
"He's a good man. He looks great," Guth said.
The VFW provided the hall and the buffet meal, according to post Commander Richard Baratucci.
"He's a hometown hero to us," he said. "Everybody loves him."
Re-enactor Tonya Miller, 30, of Annapolis smiled at the chance to meet Winters again. She met him a year ago at the Chambersburg re-enactment and escorted him around the jump area.
"He's such a huge personality," she said. "It's hard to describe (my first impressions)."
|(Sitting): SFC(R) Clancy
Lyall (E Co, 2nd BN, 506th PIR, 1944-1945; 1st
(Standing behind table): Richard D. Winters (E/HQ, 2nd BN, 506th PIR, 1942-1945),
as the 506th Regimental Flag with its WWII Battle Streamers was presented
to him for his 85th birthday.
|Gene Overton (C
Co, 1st BN, 1967-1968), president of the The 506th
Infantry Regiment Association (Airmobile - Air Assault), attended Winters'
birthday celebration, and brought with him the Association Flag and the 506th
Regimental Flag with all 31 authorized Battle Streamers (from both WWII
and Vietnam), both purchased for the Association with donations from Association
|SFC(R) Joseph F. Foster, Jr. (HHC, 2nd BN, 1969-1970), secretary
The 506th Airborne Infantry Regiment Association (Airmobile - Air
Assault), also attended Winters' birthday celebration, and like all who
attended the event, later received the following items from Dick Winters.