As I was having my coffee and reading the Sunday morning paper yesterday an obituary caught my eye. A 92-year-old WWII veteran named Richard ‘Dick’ Winters had passed away. I first learned about Dick Winters watching the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. It was based on a book published by Stephen Ambrose that told the story of a company of soldiers from the 101st Airborne during World War II. I am the first generation in my family in the last 100 years not to serve in the armed forces, and I love to hear the stories of those individuals who did because it provides me a glimpse into the character of my father and grandfather. What war requires and what it takes away from those who go through it still boggles my mind.
The story of Dick Winters is especially interesting because he was not the leader of Easy Company when the planes took off from England as part of D-Day. But when their company commander was killed in the invasion he assumed command and his heroics began.
Dick Winters was a hero, and he happened to be a leader. What did he think of leadership?
“If you can,” he wrote, “find that peace within yourself, that peace and quiet and confidence that you can pass on to others, so that they know that you are honest and you are fair and will help them, no matter what, when the chips are down.”
Did he consider himself a hero?
When people asked whether he was a hero, he echoed the words of his World War II buddy, Mike Ranney: “No, but I served in a company of heroes.”
Being a great leader takes courage. Being a hero takes a depth of courage to quickly act in unbelievably difficult situations. Unbelievably difficult are the words for those who hear about the heroics years later. For real heroes, they just call it their job or their duty, and humbly go about their lives.
Something to think about today no matter what your title or position.
- Richard ‘Dick’ Winters, ‘Band of Brothers’ inspiration, dies at 92 (latimesblogs.latimes.com)
- Dick Winters, Band of Brothers Commander, Dead at 92 (outsidethebeltway.com)