My letter-writing campaign to several of the Airborne veterans profiled in “Band of Brothers” has begun to pay off. Last week I wrote three letters and sent them, each of which were short and simple – a thank you for having made enormous sacrifices, a mention of my dad (who is a veteran of the Vietnam war) and a quick mention of the fact that I lived the next town over from another of their fellow Easy Company/Airborne members in World War II, a guy by the name of Fred Heyliger, who died last year. I did not expect anything back from these men and wouldn’t have been disappointed had I never heard from them – they’re all in their 80’s now and are probably all receiving a lot of mail and I assume they simply cannot reply to it all. I just wanted them to know that their story moved me to point where I wanted to personally thank them. Anyway, to my extreme surprise, I received a thank you note today from one Donald Malarkey, now 82. Please click the link and read through some of this stuff. It’s also been written that the actors and the veterans still keep in touch to this day and while shooting the series, the first time the veterans turned up on the set, everyone dropped everything and just crowded around the old boys in awe. A nice side note.
The text of Mr. Malarkey’s letter, written by hand:
Thank you very much for your nice letter. We receive a lot of support in recent years due to an awareness that previously had pretty well been buried.
“Moose” (Heyliger) was a very good officer and not overly impressed with his rank. He attended all Company reunions even when it required a wheelchair. He had an unfortunate wounding in Holland when he was to succeed Dick Winters.
How nice. For an 82 year old man to respond to me personally and so quickly like that is somewhat stunning to me. In reading an article recently about the miniseries, it was said that Tom Hanks (who executive produced along with Spielberg) told these veterans to be prepared to be treated like rock stars. I hope it makes these veterans feel good that they’ve received such an outpouring of thanks and it’s gotta blow their mind just a little bit – after 60 years there are peope writing to them whose parents weren’t even alive at the time of the war.
Anyway, I’m not sure anything I’ve seen on television has been so powerful. As a sidenote, they are currently running the series at 9pm every night on The History Channel and one of the best episodes and some of the best TV you will ever see is tomorrow night’s (Saturday) chapter called “The Breaking Point.” It will quickly make you realize just how good your life is.