HERSHEY, PA, March 19, 2011 - "Today we are gathered to honor Dick Winters, the man. I'm sure everybody in this theater already knows about Dick Winters, the Soldier, if not go read the many books or watch the mini-series "Band of Brothers", said COL Cole Kingseed, master of ceremonies and family friend.
The public memorial service for MAJ(R) Richard "Dick" Winters was held March 19, 2011, in the quiet, chocolate-smelling town of Hershey, Penn. Those who attended the service, Winters' Family, friends, Veterans, past and present Currahees, and even Tom Hanks, packed the 1,904 seats in the classic Hershey theater.
With organ music and a recording of "Edelweiss" playing during the ceremony, it was no surprise that those who attended were reverent.
"I was honored to represent the 506th Infantry Regiment and the 101st Airborne Division, and to attend the ceremony alongside CPT Timothy Hastings, a former Easy Company (A Co, 2nd BN, 506th, 4th BCT) platoon leader," said MAJ Bradd A. Schultz, rear detachment commander of the 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.
"It was a true honor being selected to represent the 506th Infantry Regiment at the MAJ Dick Winters Memorial," said CPT Timothy Hastings, a former platoon leader (November 15, 2007 to February 15, 2009) of Easy Company (A Company), 2nd Battalion, 506th, 4th BCT.
During the service speakers noted how even after Winters became an instant celebrity following the 2001 release of the Emmy award-winning HBO mini-series, "Band of Brothers", he still remained true to who he was.
He valued a firm handshake and was known for looking you in the eye to determine what kind of person you were, said Schultz. If he judged you to be of good character, he would simply refer to you by your last name and would insist he informally be called "Winters".
Erick Jendresen, Bill Jackson, SGM(R) Herm Clemen, Bob Hoffman and Dick Hoxworth , personal friends who had spent a considerable amount of time with Winters during his later years, were chosen to tell those who attend the memorial ceremony about their experiences with the man.
As each of the five speakers shared a variety of stories chronicling their relationship with Winters, they all spoke of his loyalty to his Family and country, his sense of duty to his men and his respect for all. These were core values of the man, Dick Winters. As hard as each tried to only share stories of the "man" not the "Soldier", the speakers found it difficult to separate the two.
This is because Dick Winters lived by what Soldiers refer to as the "Army Values" (loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage), said Schultz. He expected everyone to do the same. He was raised with these values, handed down to him by his parents, and he kept himself true to them while in the US Army, while at war in Europe and while he lived the remainder of his life.
After the ceremony, family members of the "Men of Easy Company", invited Schultz and Hastings back to their hotel to attend a small reception. At the reception, they were introduced to Buck Compton, the platoon leader for Easy Company, 2nd BN, 506th PIR during WWII at Normandy, Holland and Bastogne.
"I had the privilege of meeting several Currahee Veterans from WWII and the Vietnam era," said Hastings. "A personal highlight was meeting and sharing a conversation with Buck Compton. As two former platoon leaders of the same platoon in different wars, we spoke about our common bond of leading men in combat. I would be a lucky man to live a life as full and complete as his."
While at the reception, Schultz and Hastings were also introduced to Jake Powers, the official historian of Easy Company, to who Winters donated his military papers and files.
"Powers showed us Winters' Parachutist certificate from jump school as well as Winters' personal photo albums," said Schultz. "We were able to physically hold the map, with graphics drawn by hand, with which Winters jumped into Normandy."
The spirit of the weekend resonated strongly even for the individuals who they themselves had never served in the Armed Forces.
"As you (may) know, I was never a member of Easy Company or in the military for that matter," said Daniel R. Potter, proud son of PFC George L. Potter Jr. who was a member of Easy Company during WWII.
"My father PFC George L. Potter Jr. was a member of Easy Company from February 23, 1943 through the end of WWII. I was attached to the 101st Airborne during Desert Storm as a Civilian Technical Advisor on the AH-64 and enjoyed every minute of my time working with this fine Division. With that said, let me tell you how I felt during our recent meeting over the weekend."
"The 506th (Infantry Regiment) has a long and heroic history," he continued. "This has been possible only through the high caliber of its members. To see current Currahees sitting alongside WWII Currahees like Buck Compton, Babe Hefforn and Bradford Freeman, was the highlight of my weekend. It quickly became clear to me and the WWII vets, who long ago handed the unit off to others, that it is still in good hands. Today's Currahees are made of the same strong fiber as those (Currahees) who served so long ago."
It was an amazing evening spent with some very special people in honor of a truly exceptional man, said Schultz.