Update July 20th, 2009: Today we're doing a Virtual Memorial for Shifty Powers. Please blog, FaceBook and Twitter about Shifty. For Twitterers, at the WLF Twitter (@warriororg), we're using #shiftypowers to raise awareness.
"I could hear bullets and shrapnel hitting the plane. As I jumped out the door, I could see that the left motor was on fire." - Darrell Shifty Powers talking about jumping over Normandy, France, on D-Day.
Many, many of you have sent me notice that Shifty Powers of the heroic Easy Company, 2-506th PIR, 101st Airborne Division, died on June 17th. I had no idea that he had passed on. I have written here a lot about Easy Company and even have an autographed photo (Bill Guarnere) on my desk of the jump into Holland (Market Garden).
If you use GoogleNews (any combo of Darrell and/or Shifty Powers), there are less then ten notices of his death. There are less than four articles about his passing on from "old media" news agencies.
Reader Mark send the link to a NBC piece on Shifty. Good that they recognized him.
Quite frankly, this is an affront to a genuinely good man. Shifty Powers received two Bronze Stars and a CIB and fought in every campaign that Easy Company was in. He was severely injured on his way home in a truck accident (the irony is that the men of Easy rigged the lottery to go home so Shifty would be first, but he ended up being one of the last to get home after an extensive hospitalization).
This email has gone viral about Shifty:
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 skipped.
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 was, 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 D-Day.
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 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 after fighting cancer.
There was no parade.
No big event in Staples Center.
No wall to wall back to back 24x7 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 veterans.
Rest in peace, Shifty.
"A nation without heroes is nothing." - Roberto Clemente
Here is a clip of the men of Easy Company (Shifty too) talking about heroes...
However, I particularly like this quote from his daughter...in the SWVA online edition:
He kept a busy schedule up till the end. Two years ago, he visited soldiers in South Korea and in Japan. Last September, had he not fallen ill, he would have made a stop in Iraq.
“I had his suitcase packed,” Johnson said.
Missing the trip overseas disappointed him, she said, especially the worry of disappointing the soldiers there.
“My daddy was a simple man, not complicated and very comfortable with himself and approachable,” Johnson said. “He spoiled us. Right now I don’t feel as safe. I know I’ll never be as loved.”...
Godspeed, Shifty. I'm sure the Jumpmaster has you cleared on the manifest.