Shifty Powers...

Sparks Of Insanity By Vinny "Bond" Marini Monday, July 20, 2009

Darrell "Shifty" Powers died quietly in June 2009 at age 86.
Powers was a member of the 101st Airborne who parachuted into Normandy
and who was profiled in the HBO war series "Band of Brothers."

(Courtesy The Powers Family Handout)

Received this in an email and then went over and checked it out at and found it to basically be true. I also found that there is a virtual memorial service being held today for Mr. Powers, including on twitter, facebook and other social networking sites ( too I guess!.

First the email I received:

We're hearing a lot today about big splashy memorial services.

I want a nationwide memorial service for Darrell "Shifty" Powers.

Shifty volunteered for the airborne in WWII and served with Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st Airborne Infantry. If you've seen Band of Brothers on HBO or the History Channel, you know Shifty. His character appears in all 10 episodes, and Shifty himself is interviewed in several of them.

I met Shifty in the Philadelphia airport several years ago. I didn't know who he was at the time. I just saw an elderly gentleman having trouble reading his ticket. I offered to help, assured him that he was at the right gate, and noticed the "Screaming Eagle", the symbol of the 101st Airborne, on his hat.

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

At that point, again, very humbly, he said "I made the 5 training jumps at Toccoa, and then jumped into Normandy . . . . do you know where Normandy is?" At this point my heart stopped.

I told him yes, I know exactly where Normandy was, and I know what D-Day was. At that point he said "I also made a second jump into Holland, into Arnhem." I was standing with a genuine war hero . . . . and then I realized that it was June, just after the anniversary of D-Day.

I asked Shifty if he was on his way back from France, and he said "Yes. 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." My heart was in my throat and I didn't know what to say.

I helped Shifty get onto the plane and then realized he was back in Coach, while I was in First Class. I sent the flight attendant back to get him and said that I wanted to switch seats. When Shifty came forward, I got up out of the seat and told him I wanted him to have it, that I'd take his in coach.

He said "No, son, you enjoy that seat. Just knowing that there are still some who remember what we did and still care is enough to make an old man very happy." His eyes were filling up as he said it. And mine are brimming up now as I write this.

Shifty died on June 17 after fighting cancer.

There was no parade.

No big event in Staples Center.

No wall to wall back to back 24x7 news coverage.

No weeping fans on television.

And that's not right.

Let's give Shifty his own Memorial Service, online, in our own quiet way. Please forward this email to everyone you know. Especially to the veterans.

Rest in peace, Shifty.

Here is the rest of the story...

Some versions of the e-mail give the impression it was written by another hero, famed test pilot Chuck Yeager, while others say it comes from military columnist Joe Galloway.

But neither man actually wrote it. The e-mail was unsigned.

The original e-mail is very moving and reminds us that we have not always given the heroes of World War II their proper sendoffs. And "Shifty" died just before Michael Jackson. A lot of people were angry that news coverage of Jackson's death and memorial service pushed so many other deserving stories off the newspaper pages and TV screens.

But the questions remain. Is the personal account of meeting "Shifty" in this e-mail true, and who wrote it?

Tom Giusto of ABC News tracked down the truth behind the email:
Shifty, who got his nickname playing basketball, did make several trips back to Europe where he fought in the War. One time he graciously met with a former German World War II veteran. Usually, a family member would go with him. But he went alone sometime around 2002. And when he returned he told his family about the man he had met in at the airport in Philadelphia who offered him his seat in first class. The story, it turns out, is true.

The Johnson family received the original e-mail on July 7, 2009 from Mark Pfiefer. He confirmed to me that he wrote the e-mail and he was the man who met "Shifty" at the airport in Philadelphia.

Pfiefer, who worked for Dow Jones at the time he met "Shifty," said today he had no idea the e-mail would take on a life of its own. He just wanted those who received his e-mail to hold a private moment of silence.

"I found out this morning that some took it literally," he said.

"Shifty's" son-in-law Seldon Johnson said "Shifty" would be humbled by all the attention. "He was that kind of man, a true hero that did not seek notoriety. It found him," he said.

Johnson noted that strangers often would send checks to "Shifty" to get his autograph. "He refused to endorse them," he said. "If they sent a return envelope, he'd sign his signature, and return free gratis."

So, today...say a silent prayer for Mr. Powers and the thousands of others who have quietly passed without the pomp and circumstance we witnessed the last week.

True heroes do not require the histrionics...but they certainly deserve it.

13 Of Your Sparks

  1. Matt-Man Says:
  2. Humility is a very fine trait. Cheers!!

  3. Micky-T Says:
  4. Nice post, I got the e-mail a few days ago. It made me think about how much the "American" attitude is changing. Pop!

  5. Well done. Amen.

  6. DrillerAA09 Says:
  7. Well done sir.
    Every day we lose 900 WWII veterans. Our window of opportunity to thank them is quickly vanishing. "Shifty" would tell you that there were tens of thousands just like himself. These children of the Depression, saved the world from the tyranny that was Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Everything that is great about this country, we have these men and women to thank. Most of what is wrong with this country, we have only ourselves to blame. Rest in peace Shifty, rest in peace.

  8. Travis Says:
  9. Thank you for letting me know this. I didn't see the announcement.

  10. ...those veterans deserve alot more than a first class seat, although that's a good start...

  11. Jay Says:
  12. RIP Shifty!

  13. Dianne Says:
  14. Hats Off and A Standing Ovation to Shifty

    might I also suggest that we all remember to visit a VFW - they often have open house and during the summer there are lots of family days and BBQs

    these men amd women are so grateful for a bit of thoughtful respect - when in reality they deserve so much more

  15. JohnH985 Says:
  16. You know we make such big deals out of a singer or an actor's death, but we truly forget about the real heroes, the men and women that risked their lives and helped change the world. And I'll be the first to admit that I'm guilty of it. But as much as we enjoy their music, or their acting, very few of them have every really helped change the world. It's men like Shifty that truly have helped change the world and who we forget about.

    Very well done today, sir.

  17. Ralph Says:
  18. A true hero Shifty is. But the real heroes are those who did what was necessary, but modest and not boastful. He was in the military to defend and protect...not make a statement in a self-aggrandizing way. What any hero would do, although we would never know...

  19. katherine. Says:
  20. nice post vincent...

  21. Mimi Lenox Says:
  22. This is a very touching story. Thanks for sharing.

  23. Dana Says:
  24. Well, you had to have known this post would touch me. I can't help but think of all of the "freedoms" we take for granted - daily - that are a direct result of the Shifty's of this country.

    They do it because they believe in what they are doing - more so than many of us will ever believe in anything.


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