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Memorial Day is a time to listen carefully

Darrell Powers was born in Clinchco, Va., on March 13, 1923 and he died in Clinchco, Va., on June 13, 2009. He worked as a machinist for the Clinchfield Coal Corp. and was married to his beloved bride, Dorothy, for 60 years.

Oh, and he helped saved the world in the 1940s.

Powers is better known as Shifty, a staff sergeant in Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.

The unit is better known now as the Band of Brothers, the subject of a book by historian Stephen Ambrose and of a subsequent HBO series.

Powers parachuted into Normandy and later into the Netherlands as he and his Band of Brothers helped liberate Europe from the Nazis.

He also was caught up in the Battle of the Bulge, where he shot a German sniper right between the eyes, saving the lives of his comrades.

Shifty's final visit to France in 2009, for the 65th anniversary of D Day, led to a chance encounter with Mark Pfeifer, a journalist then with Dow Jones.

Pfeifer noticed the Screaming Eagle of the 101st on Shifty's cap.

"Making conversation, I asked him if he'd been in the 101st Airborne or if his son was serving," Pfeifer said in an email.

"He said quietly that he had been in the 101st. I thanked him for his service, then asked him when he served, and how many jumps he made.

"Quietly and humbly, he said, 'Well, I guess I signed up in 1941 or so, and was in until sometime in 1945 . . .' at which point my heart skipped."

Pfeifer knew he was in the presence of a war hero.

Pfeifer realized the D-Day anniversary had just passed and he asked Shifty if he had just visited


"Yes," Shifty replied. "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."

Shifty died shortly after their meeting, and Pfeifer noted that unlike the death of rock stars, there was no great tribute at the Staples Center in Los Angeles for Shifty.

That led to an online memorial for this hero.

But Shifty was remembered, not only as part of Ambrose's book and TV show about Easy Company, but in two subsequent books by Marcus Brotherton, including an authorized biography.

The people who should be remembered - whose stories need to be heard - are those reluctant warriors who are still among us.

Every day in the Charleston Daily Mail there are obituaries for men who were drafted or volunteered for service not only in World War II, but in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan.

They are reluctant to tell their stories because reliving combat experiences can be painful, but they are all around us every day.

But today is the day to remember the men and women who died in combat and those combat veterans who died years later as the result of service to their fellow Americans.

It is also the time to ask Grandpa about the Battle of Khe Sanh.

His Band of Brothers learned a lot, and their stories can provide a cautionary tale for this generation as well.

Failure to maintain a national defense, and failure to confront looming threats early, carries a high price for those who eventually must answer the call.


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