Monday, June 28, 2004

"We Stand Alone Together:" A Story About Easy Company. Watch This If You Can!


I am out of town on business and wound up alone in the hotel fitness center, on the treadmill, late at night. The fitness center is quite a high-tech workout room, with small television sets attached to every exercise machine. I switched my set on and happened to find a History Channel documentary on Easy Company, the men of the Parachute Infantry Regiment, E Company, 101st Airborne Division. These are the men of the HBO series "Band of Brothers." This was not a dramatized episode; it was a set of brilliantly-edited interviews with the survivors of that group, now old men.

Here's how the History Channel Web Site describes the show:

"This documentary, executive-produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, tells the remarkable story of 'Easy Company' (the men in 'Band of Brothers') in their own words. Featuring recent interviews with the real-life company members, whose deeds are dramatized in the miniseries, combined with rare and archival photographs and film footage. TV PG"

The men are pretty old now, bless them; but their memories are sharp; they still know the names of the men they served with, even (perhaps especially) the names of those who lost their lives in the war and exactly how those men were killed.

If you get a chance, watch this documentary. If you are like me, you'll be riveted to it. (Hey, I had planned a 45-minute workout, and stayed on that stupid treadmill for an entire hour because I didn't want to turn off the show!) The show lasts ninety minutes, and I saw about an hour of it. Watch it with your families, children and grandchildren (and granparents, if you are lucky enough still to have them).

The men are just "ordinary Joes" who ended up in the Army at around age 20. Throughout the documentary they reminisce through D-Day, Holland, the Battle of the Bulge, the "liberation" of Hitler's mountaintop retreat (Brechtesgaden?) in the Alps, the end of the war and the German surrender. They speak matter-of-factly of the almost unbelieveable sacrifices they made and the extreme difficulty of their service. (Imagine, for example, living out doors for 70 days in the dead of the Northern Europoean winter.) Again, it is gripping.

Then, at the end, one after another, each man very emotionally insists that he is not heroes; that the true heroes are those men who did not come back from the war and whose bodies still lie there in Europe.

I'm not so sure about that. These elderly but magnificent men look like heroes to me.


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