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Thursday, June 18, 2009

An American Hero Passes

If you watched in awe and with unbridled admiration the multi-series HBO spectacular "Band of Brothers," as I did many times, you will remember one of the characters in the now-famous Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. His name was Shifty Powers, a man who was somehow able to survive the entire campaign, from Normandy to Eagles Nest, and return home to Southwest Virginia. Somewhat broken but unbowed.

The Roanoke Times brings us the sad news that Darrell "Shifty" Powers has died:
Veteran a part of 'Band of Brothers'
By Neil Harvey

In a 2001 interview with The Roanoke Times, Darrell "Shifty" Powers talked about some of his experiences during World War II.

Powers, a United States Army paratrooper and sharpshooter, belonged to Easy Company, part of the legendary 101st Airborne Division. He recalled a bitterly cold day in the Ardennes when he was able to draw down on a German sniper, sighting his target by the misty cloud of the man's breath. He killed him with one shot.

"Right there," he said, touching his forehead. "Between the eyes."

But Powers, of Dickenson County, who died Wednesday of natural causes at age 86, was also reflective about such matters.

In the second-to-last episode of "Band of Brothers," an HBO miniseries that documented Easy Company's wartime exploits, Powers spoke on camera about the soldiers he fought and also hinted at the intrinsic tragedy of combat.

"We might have had a lot in common. He might've liked to fish, you know, he might've liked to hunt," Powers said. "Of course, they were doing what they were supposed to do, and I was doing what I was supposed to do.

"But under different circumstances, we might have been good friends."

"Our family had four boys and one girl, and I'm the only one left," said Powers' sister, Gaynell Sykes of Roanoke, on Wednesday. "He was a great brother. I know he was great at a lot of other things, too -- great father, great son, great husband." [link]
Darrell Powers walks through the portals of the pantheon of American heroes. May his service - and his sacrifices - be extolled by generations of young Americans to come.

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For information on another member of the 101st, one closer to my home, go here.