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The heroic legacy of the Band of Brothers should be an inspiration to all Americans

The men of Easy Company, the heroes known as the Band of Brothers, led their nation in war and their values should still be an inspiration to all Americans.

This past July 3, 2022, a soft-spoken him him him Mississippi farmer named Bradford Freeman, age 97, quietly passed into eternity. This Veterans Day weekend, it’s worth remembering this American hero — and all he stood for.

Significantly, Freeman was the last surviving member of Easy Company, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne — the legendary World War II paratroopers known as the Band of Brothers.

Our culture will be poorer without them. In an age where it’s become commonplace to be obnoxious and divisive, the Band of Brothers set the standard for noble living. During World War II, they battled oppression with courage and honor. In post-war America, they modeled service to our country with excellence, dignity and unity.


I spent more than six years interviewing the Band of Brothers and writing about them. I met many of them in person, along with their spouses, children and grandchildren, at reunions and in their homes.

They were the real deal. 

The Band of Brothers formed at Camp Toccoa, Georgia, under the tough and controversial Captain Herbert Sobel. After training stateside, the men rode the troop ship, Samaria, to Aldbourne, England, for further battle preparation.

They parachuted into Normandy on D-Day and later jumped into Holland for Operation Market Garden.

They fought their way through Belgium, France and Germany, survived overwhelming odds, liberated concentration camps, and drank a victory toast in April 1945 at Hitler’s hideout in the Alps.

Along the way, they encountered horrors and victories and welded themselves into a family. They helped swing the tide of World War II, and ultimately the course of history.

The first significant chronicle of their story was the 1992 book by historian Stephen Ambrose, "Band of Brothers." In 2001, Tom Hanks and Stephen Spielberg turned Ambrose’s book into a ten-part HBO miniseries by the same name. The series won six Emmys and numerous other awards, and still runs frequently on various networks around the world.

After the war, and particularly after the series soared, many of the men became household names. Their qualities became measures of greatness.

Major Dick Winters was known for his impeccable leadership. He modeled grace under fire, solid character, and unswerving integrity.

"Wild" Bill Guarnere and Edward "Babe" Heffron were best friends who fought side by side through life’s hardest difficulties. Postwar, they appeared together at an uncountable number of events nationwide and overseas, constantly championing veteran causes and the value of freedom.

Lt. Buck Compton had played baseball at UCLA with Jackie Robinson. After the war, Buck threw himself into public service and became an attorney and later a judge, known for his brilliance and fairness. He prosecuted Sirhan Sirhan for the murder of Bobby Kennedy.

Shifty Powers, a backwoods machinist from the small coal-mining town of Clinchco, Virginia, proved that every person, no matter how unassuming, can lead an extraordinary life.

When describing his former enemies, Powers famously said, "That man and I might have been good friends. We might’ve had a lot in common. He might have liked to fish. He might have liked to hunt. Course, they was doing what they was supposed to do, and I was trying to do what I was supposed to do. But under different circumstances, we might have been good friends."

And Freeman, the last brother? Following the war, he returned to the United States and married his childhood sweetheart. The couple had two daughters. He finished college and while operating a farm, worked as a mail carrier for more than 30 years. 

I met Freeman several times at various military gatherings, but per his wishes I never formally interviewed him for a book. He had already said all he wanted to say, he told me. 


He was perhaps best known for a brief mention in Ambrose’s book, when he responded to a 1990 letter from Winters, his commanding officer during the war. Winters asked Freeman if he could come visit at his home. Freeman wrote:

"It would be a great honor for you to come to see us in Mississippi. We have a good shade to sit in summer and have a good heater for winter. About all that I do is garden and cut hay for cows in summer and feed in winter. Fish and hunt the rest of the time. I have a good place on the front porch to sit. Here’s hoping that you will come down sometime." 

Winters did, and they had a good visit. Their brotherhood proved intact. 

The Band of Brothers will be greatly missed. Although every member of the company has now passed, the values that made them great have not. Excellence. Professionalism. Dignity. Humility. Courage. Honor. Unity. 

It’s a legacy we would do well to continue. 


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