January 11th, 2011
07:18 AM ET

The 'Band of Brothers' lives on

The passing of Maj. Richard "Dick" Winters has reduced the ranks of the legendary "band of brothers," the men of Easy Company, the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.

But their valor lives on in today's troops, especially the young men and women of the Army's "Screaming Eagles" 101st Airborne Division.

As a reporter who has regularly traveled through Afghanistan with them, let me assure you at some moment, suddenly, Easy Company is there with you in that war zone, just as earlier members of E Company were there for each other and for their country in World War II.

It was a blustery, wind-blown morning in November 2008 in Afghanistan. I was on Forward Operating Base Shank with a small unit of the 101st when suddenly the ghosts of Normandy, Operation Market Garden, and Bastogne were just off in the mists. Another war, another time, another generation - but they were there. Young men, leaning casually, rifle at their knees, smoking cigarettes, waiting for the orders to move out.

A loudspeaker announcement had just come on that the mortar range was "hot" with an early morning training session. "Outgoing mortars in five minutes! Currahee!"

It was the legendary call "Currahee" that jolted me. More than half a century earlier the young men of the 101st had run up and down Mount Currahee in Georgia training for battle in World War II. Currahee came to symbolize the grueling regimen of training and the growing bond of kinship that brought the men together.

They would go on to become the stuff of legend indeed, reminding millions through a book and the television series "Band of Brothers" that men, young men, fight in wars not for glory or the goals of politicians, or even for themselves, but rather for the buddy on the right and the buddy on the left. The fear is not of death, the fear is the potential awfulness of letting down your brothers, of letting down the team.

"Currahee" was an Indian word meaning "stands alone," a phrase that later in part became the regiment's motto: "We stand alone together."

As I traveled with the 101st in Afghanistan, I would hear the phase "Currahee" everywhere, a honored reminder of those who had gone before.

Throughout the war zone, the brotherhood continues everywhere, but perhaps nowhere more spine-tingling than with today's young troops of the 101st, who are so aware of honor and valor of their World War II predecessors

Last summer I traveled with some young wounded troops out of the war zone back toward home, on a C-17 medical evacuation flight. Three of them were young men of the 101st. I found them on stretchers on their way back to Fort Campbell on the Kentucky-Tennessee border. They had been brought down together by a roadside bomb, and they were coming home together, refusing to be separated.

Pvt. Mike Garcia ,21, leaned over painfully on his stretcher and whispered, "Ma'am that's what makes it personal, because we go over there, we are such a small group to begin with, and we see pretty much nobody else for the year we are over there and we just bond, a lot of bonding pretty much, especially when you get hit.

"I can tell you one thing, I am happy with them, I am grateful for them," he said pointing to his two buddies on nearby stretchers.

I am not sure how many of today's young troops of the 101st know the origin of the phrase "band of brothers," from Shakespeare's Henry V, with the lines: "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For today he that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother."

But the brotherhood does not dim. Just a few weeks ago I was back with the 101st on another mountaintop in Afghanistan, talking to some soldiers who just two days earlier had been in a brutal firefight with the Taliban. One of the young soldiers had stepped in front of Taliban gunfire to save his buddy who had been turned away, shooting in another direction against other insurgents.

The two were still fairly shaken by what had happened. Suddenly they put their arms around each other, and one said quietly, "He's my brother."

soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Mimi

    My son is a fister currently attached to Easy Company. We miss him with all our hearts but know he is with an amazing group of men that make us all very proud. I can't wait to welcome them all home later this year.

    January 16, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Nick

    When being deployed to war, we sacrifice more than our lives. We also sacrifice the time we spend and live with loved ones. The dangers in combat are obvious, but the pain of leaving loved ones behind, and the pain felt by loved ones that are left behind are only for service members to understand. It's not about missing the holidays, it's about missing the chance to spend those holidays with family, and those family members at home not being able to spend those moments with their loved on at war. Sacrifices are not limited to just the battlefield or combat.

    January 14, 2011 at 11:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Chuck

    He was abviously talking about sacrifices in combat. Nobody cares how many holidays you've missed – it's how many times you've fought for your life, and more importantly, the lives of your brothers. It's how many times you came close to death and still pressed on, it's how much blood and sweat you've shed. "Warriors" should equal combat troops, that's all the he was trying to say.

    January 14, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Josh

    I'm getting so tired of hearing "America's fighting men and women" this and that. Real warriors are in the infantry – some engineers as well – everybody else just steals their glory and tales of sacrifice. Period.

    January 13, 2011 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sanity

      Josh,

      So over the 7 months I spent in Iraq, I didn't 'sacrifice' anything since I am not infantry? So finding out about deploying 3 weeks after i got married is not a sacrifice? Missing my first Thanksgiving, Christmas, Anniversary was not a sacrifice? With all my training and the deployment, I missed 10 months out of the 1st year of my marriage, but you're telling me i didn't sacrifice anything? screw you man. i was not infantry but i was outside the wire two or three times a week on a weapons intelligence team. But since i was not infantry, i didnt sacrifice anything? you can kiss my @$$

      January 14, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. bb

    For today he that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother." Heartwrenching what our soldiers go thru. I am proud of each and evry one of them.

    January 12, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Marine Queen

    I have never served in the military but I know who has... i have heard about this bond.. and I want to say that this is something to be admired.. this bond, is what keeps these men and women together and watch out for each other in the most dangerous times... Thank you to all these men and women for their sacrifice and courage to protect us all. God keep you all safe.

    January 12, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Sanity

    If you haven't served in the military, you have no idea about the bond you form with your brothers/sisters in arms. This is a really good article and I wanted to say that before all the crazies come out with silly posts like "more right wing mumbo jumbo" etc. This article has nothing to do with politics, so do not even bring it up.

    January 11, 2011 at 7:25 am | Report abuse |