Examples: [Collected via e-mail, July 2009]
I want a nationwide memorial service for Darrell "Shifty" Powers.
Shifty volunteered for the airborne in WWII and served with Easy Company of the
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
Making conversation, I asked him if he'd been in the
Quietly and humbly, he said "Well, I guess I signed up in 1941 or so, and was in until sometime in
At that point, again, very humbly, he said "I made the
I told him yes, I know exactly where Normandy was, and I know what
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.
Variations: A 2011 version of this item opened with the statement that Shifty Powers died on
Origins: The name of SSgt. Darrel 'Shifty' Powers should be familiar to anyone who has read the 2001 Stephen Ambrose book Band of Brothers, or viewed the superb HBO mini-series of the same name, which chronicled the exploits of
"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
"But under different circumstances, we might have been good friends."
Powers, who got the nickname "Shifty" playing basketball as a youngster, served three years in the Army during World War II and later worked as a machinist for Clinchfield Coal Corp. He found renewed notoriety when his military experiences were depicted on film and in the Stephen Ambrose book of the same name.
"He actually hadn't talked about it, his war years, until the book came out," said his daughter-in-law, Sandy Powers. "He gets fan mail from all over the world, and calls."
"For me and my kids, it's just amazing that our regular, sweet uncle was such a hero," said his niece, Cheryl Gilliland of Roanoke. "It sure changed his life in later years. He went places and met people he never would have otherwise."
Authorship of the above-quoted piece, which describes an encounter with Darrell Powers at a Philadelphia airport several years ago, is often attributed to "retired Major General Chuck Yeager," but a representative of the General Chuck Yeager Foundation told us that General Yeager had nothing to do with it. Likewise, the account was not written by baseball great Roberto Clemente (who died in 1972), although the oft-appended "A nation without heroes is nothing" quote is his.
Pfiefer, who worked for Dow Jones at the time he met "Shifty," said today he had no idea the
"I found out this morning that some took it literally," he said, "and now thousands of people have been organized into a virtual memorial service for Shifty on
Giusto, Tom. "War Hero E-mail Goes Worldwide — But Who Really Wrote It?" ABC News. 16 July 2009. Harvey, Neil. "Veteran a Part of 'Band of Brothers.'" The Roanoke Times. 18 June 2009.