Service honors 'Band of Brothers' leader Dick Winters
HERSHEY -- Comrades, friends and admirers of Maj. Richard "Dick" Winters gathered during the weekend for a public memorial service to honor the man whose quiet leadership was chronicled in the book and television miniseries "Band of Brothers."
As Winters' wife, Ethel, looked on from the Hershey Theater balcony on Saturday, participants heard music, Bible verses and personal remembrances that she and her late husband personally selected more than two years ago.
Master of ceremonies and family friend Col. Cole Kingseed began by asking all military veterans to rise. Nearly half of the 1,900-seat theater stood, including several surviving members of Easy Company, as the audience thundered its applause.
Those paying tribute to Winters included officers in dress uniforms, young West Point cadets and white-haired Korean and Vietnam War veterans sporting company emblems embroidered on baseball caps. The Patriot-News of Harrisburg reported that former governor and Vietnam War veteran Tom Ridge quietly slipped in and out of the service.
The crowd also included actor Tom Hanks, who co-produced the 2001 HBO miniseries based on Stephen Ambrose's 1992 book. Hanks spoke after the service about Winters' steely stare.
"That look could pierce a tank," Hanks said. "He was a complicated, magnificent human being."
Winters became the leader of Company E, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, on D-Day after the death of the company commander during the invasion of Normandy. During that invasion, Winters led 13 of his men in destroying an enemy battery and obtained a detailed map of German defenses along Utah Beach.
In September 1944, he led 20 men in a successful attack on a German force of 200 soldiers. Occupying the Bastogne area of Belgium at the time of the Battle of the Bulge, he and his men held their place until the Third Army broke through enemy lines.
The service honored not only Winters' World War II exploits but his life as a person, friend, local businessman and member of his central Pennsylvania community.
After Winters returned home, he married Ethel in May 1948, trained infantry and Army Ranger units at Fort Dix, N.J., during the Korean War, started a company selling livestock feed to farmers, and eventually settled in a farmhouse in Hershey, where he later retired.