My good friend, Architect Bob Hoffman invited me to a breakfast yesterday. Bob had arranged for Forrest Guth, one of the original members of Easy Company, 101st Airborne in WWII, to speak about his time in the service and particularly about serving under Major Dick Winters.
If you’ve read the Band of Brothers book, or seen the HBO mini-series (which has been broadcast more than 10 times), you’re familiar with Dick Winters. If not, I think of Dick Winters like Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain in the Civil War. Chamberlain just happened to be in the hottest spots in several key battles and acted well, amazingly well, in each instance. Similarly, Winters and Easy Company jumped into Normandy on D-Day and took out a German gun position that saved many lives. They also jumped into Arnham, Holland and fought in critical location during the Battle of the Buldge. Marching into Germany, they liberated both the Dachau concentration camp and Berchtesgaden, Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. In short, they were called on to be in the toughest spots many times and continually proved themselves up to the task.
Bob Hoffman is a good friend of Major Winters and has given me the opportunity to speak with him a couple of times. Since Winters hails from Ephrata, PA and lived most of his life in Lebanon County, PA, he’s not just a hero but a local hero as well. When Dick signed a copy of Band of Brothers for me, he inscribed it with his motto for living:
- Walk straight
- Be positive
- Hang tough
I think that’s some of the best advice I’ve ever received.
Yesterday, though, I heard Forrest Guth, an 88 year old man, recounting his life. He joined the paratroopers because it paid $50 more per month. He stayed because he liked being with the best, he liked the challenge. When Forrest spoke of Dick Winters, his voice choked as he said, “He was tough when he had to be and kind when he had to be. He was religious, he didn’t really fit in with most of us.”
When Forrest was injured on his jump into Holland, he was waiting in a make-shift field hospitals for a doctor to move up to the front. When the doctor finally came to treat him, Forrest realized his family doctor from the little town of Fogelsville, PA was also going to be his doctor in Holland. He loved that wild coincidence.
Forrest fought through the Battle of the Buldge, for the first time really thinking that he was unlikely to make it back home. But of course, they held, Patton burst through and Forrest marched into Germany with the rest of Easy Company. Forrest came home and became an industrial arts teacher, a soft spoken man who, I’m sure, inspired many.
As I contemplated this old man, I thought of our current dilemmas. Are you taking the easy way or are you living all in? When you get to be an old man or old woman, will you be able to look back with joy at the times you really lived? Or will fear keep you from accomplishing anything beyond ordinary? I challenge you today to take the first step toward all in living.