We’re hearing a lot today about big splashy memorial services.
I want a nationwide memorial service for Darrell “Shifty” Powers.
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
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.” At that point 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
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 17, 2009 after fighting cancer.
There was no parade.
No big event in Staples Center .
No wall to wall back to back 24×7 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
Rest in peace, Shifty.
I think that it is amazing how the “media” chooses our “hero’s” these days…
Michael Jackson, Ted Kennedy & the like.