A generation before me, Ed Shames was born in 1922 in Virginia Beach and also enjoyed being outdoors as he grew up there. His father died at age 42 from pneumonia in 1927. The family owned a country store on Virginia Beach Boulevard, and Ed lived with them above the store, until Ed volunteered to become a paratrooper in World War II, where he became a legend.
A new book by Ian Gardner entitled Airborne: The Combat Story of Ed Shames of Easy Company brings his heroic story back to life vividly. Ed became one of the famous “Band of Brothers” who parachuted into Normandy on D-Day, landing behind enemy lines on a milk factory, and fought in some of the best known campaigns, including Bastogne at the Battle of the Bulge. He was involved in the liberation of the horrible extermination camp of Dachau and the technically difficult capture of Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest, at the end of the war. His bravery and heroism is beyond question.
I speculate that his perception of reality was very different from mine. Reading his autobiography was like describing a pinball machine – a steel ball bouncing unpredictably across geography and between people. Fortunately, Ed somehow survived to return to Virginia Beach, where he still lives. While I have never met him, it would be my honor to salute him!
To better understand the horror of war, you should read this book.
To better understand how heroes think and process emotion, you should read this book.