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(Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, France) -- A monument in the likeness of the late Major Dick Winters was unveiled in France on the 68th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. witf's Tim Lambert filed a series of reports from Normandy, including this one about the dedication ceremony for the statue of the midstate native and leader of the Band of Brothers.
(Nat sound of congregation singing, "Glory, glory, hallelujah...")
Dozens of people from different nationalities gather in a huge church that marks the center of the tiny French town of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont to pay tribute to the men who helped liberate their community 68 years ago. A church confessional still bears the signs of the struggle between U.S. and German troops. Several bullet holes are noticeable on the wooden door. Reporting from Sainte-Marie-du-Mont as part of our "Hang Tough: Dick Winters in Normandy " project, I'm Tim Lambert.
(Nat sound church bells)
As the church bells rang out, marking the end of mass, hundreds of people made their way down a narrow road to catch a glimpse of a monument dedicated to all junior U.S. military officers...the first and second lieutenants as well as captains....who led their men during the Allied invasion of Europe. A couple of miles from this spot is Utah Beach, one of two landing areas for U.S. forces during the invasion. The leadership monument was made in the likeness of the late Dick Winters of the 101st Airborne Division and leader of the Band of Brothers. Winters, who lived outside Hershey, gave his approval for the project before his death.
Herb Suerth is one of 19 living Easy Company veterans. He says Winters was a humble guy, who would have been overwhelmed by all the attention from the large crowd. But when it came to leading his men into combat, Suerth says Winters never made a tactical error.
"As one of our vets wrote home to his mother, when Dick was appointed as company commander, he said, 'Mother...we now have a company commander that can lead us to Hell.'"
Winters did lead his men through hell, starting with the assault at Brecourt Manor that successfully destroyed four German artillery pieces and likely saved the lives of hundreds of U.S. troops landing at Utah Beach. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for the attack and earned the lifelong respect and admiration of the family who lived there.
Charles de Vallavieille now owns the manor, as well as the Utah Beach Museum. He says his family will always remember what Winters and his troopers did for them.
DE VALLAVIELLE SPEAKING IN FRENCH FADES INTO ENGLISH TRANSLATION:
"I had the chance to meet Dick Winters many times. The visit, which marked me the most, was his last in 2001 for the premier of "Band of Brothers" at Utah Beach. We spent a great deal of time together. After the ceremonies, before leaving, I offered him a medal made specially for the occasion. He refused it. From his pocket, he produced a well-worn out medal, which my father had given him 30 years before. He said he always kept it with him and that it was his good luck charm. I was so moved."
The crowd on hand, undoubtably was there because Winters is so well known across the globe. But, speaker after speaker made sure to mention it was the leadership of men, like the central Pennsylvania native, who helped turn the tide of the war. Former Governor and federal Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge says Winters is an example of a generation that lived through the Depression and found themselves in a fight for humanity.
"We dedicate a monument to the leadership of noble men, who after battle, became quiet men...who did not dwell on their experiences, but drew from them. Humility is the hat they prefer to wear. But, pride in them is the banner that we wave."
Jordan Brown of Lebanon County was the youngest speaker on the stage. The 13-year-old has played an enormous role in making this monument a reality, by helping to raise more than $99,000 through the sale of wristbands that bear Winters' motto, "Hang Tough."
"To me, Hang Tough means to hold on. To keep going even when things get hard. To never give up until you reach your goal. They inspire me."
Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster is hoping Winters will continue to inspire young people, like Brown. President Daniel Porterfield, addressing the throngs of people, has announced the "Dick Winters Award" for perseverance and leadership. It will recognize one undergrad annually who demonstrates the greatest determination and strength of character.
Those are all qualities the speakers mentioned when talking about Winters. But, they also mentioned such qualities in leaders in other units that took part in the invasion, 68 years ago. And that's why U.S. troops made it of the Utah and Omaha beaches and airborne units opened the causeways to make Operation Overlord a success.
Tim Lambert, witf News, Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, France.
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