Tuesday, March 11, 2014

"Wild" Bill Guarnere, R.I.P.

Jeff emails from Blighty:
This time it is one of yours. The Telegraph hasn't picked him up yet, but I dare say they will:


The bubble headed newsbabe mispronounces his name (you had one job to do), but this is well worth your time as it captures the attitude not just of Guarnere but of all the men.  They hated being called heros.  That was my experience with the few men I knew who were in Normandy*: they thought that the real heroes were the men who never made it back.  But heroes they were, nonetheless - Guarnere in particular.  You don't win a Silver Star without some of that.

Guarnere was one of the few who got some extra attention late in life, because of Tom Hank's amazing Band Of Brothers miniseries in 2001.

The attention was his due: Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts (one for leaving his leg on the battlefield).  It's appropriate that he took his hit trying to bring his comrade back to safety, and if there is a single scene that sums up the title of the series, this is perhaps the most iconic of a very iconic series.  The name, of course, is from Shakespeare.  As you might expect, the Bard himself described what it was to be a paratrooper, jumping behind enemy lines, always to be surrounded.

If we are mark'd to die, we are enow
to do our country loss; and if to live,
the fewer men, the greater share of honour.
The men who could not handle this idea washed out of Paratrooper school.  Guarnere didn't wash out.  Instead, his is the share of honor from that few, that Happy Few, that Band Of Brothers.

Bill Guarnere was a gentle man, whose family was surprised to find out that he'd been a warrior.  His nickname came from the killing he'd done, his wounds came from trying to save a Brother in arms.  I don't hang my head that my epitaph won't live up to that.  Few will.

But humility was always at the fore.

It seems that the complement of the Band Of Brothers of the 506 PIR is down to three present, all others accounted for.  A World Age is passing before our eyes.
Old men forget: all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers
God Speed, Bill Guarnere.  Fair winds and following seas as you muster with the rest of your Company of Heroes.  In our flowing cups this eve, let him - and them - be freshly remember'd.

* 2cents is my shoolboy chum from way back when  the town dads were WWII vets.  We grew up in the '60s mad on WWII, and his Dad never talked about the War.  30 years later, he started to.

I asked him why he hadn't talked about it, way back when.  He said that he had been getting along with life,  a wife and kids and career, and it hadn't seemed too important.

I asked him why he'd suddenly started talking about it.  He said he didn't want his buddies to be forgotten.  The ones who hadn't come home.  Regular readers know how sentimental I am, but that's a sentiment that you have to respect.

As a gentle suggestion to 2cents, perhaps if he'd post about his Dad and what he'd heard, that would be an homage to his Dad, to the men of the 506 PIR, and to all the heroes who never made it back.
Requiem Aeternam dona eis, Domine
Requiem et lux perpetua luceat eis
Requiescant in pace. Amen.


Old NFO said...

God speed is right. He is now with his brothers...

Goober said...

In a decent world, this would have been headline news, and people would be mourning him everywhere.

That I only heard about it through the blogosphere proves that this is not a decent world at all.

Chris said...

A people that buries its heroes with honor and remembers the cause that shaped their heroism will continue. A people that buries the very memory of its heroes will likely also fade away.

WoFat said...

He should have a good trip, and meet friends when there.