KIRKUK, Iraq – Two generations of Soldiers connected when members of the Task Force Band of Brothers spoke with one of the original members of Easy Company.
Bill Wingett, a 101st Airborne Division “Screaming Eagles” World War II veteran, shared a phone conversation with current members of the 101st Airborne Division deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom IV. He spoke with Maj. Curt Johnson, executive officer, and Maj. Bill Galbraith, support operations officer, both with the 426th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division,
Wingett served with Easy Company – the original “Band of Brothers”- during WWII, and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart for his actions in the European theater.
A machine gunner for Easy Company, Wingett jumped into Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944, and was later wounded in Holland during Operation Market Garden. Wingett and his fellow 101st Airborne Division paratroopers were a part of the allied invasion that spelled the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany’s occupation of Western Europe.
Wingett, a private during his time in World War II, was humble about his role in the European campaign, stating that he was just doing his job.
“The first part of the phone call was very humble on both sides,” said Galbraith of the approximately thirty-minute phone conversation. “Mr. Wingett could not believe that he was actually talking to us in Iraq, and we were in awe that we were speaking to an original member of the Band of Brothers.”
“Mr. Wingett was very disappointed with the way the press was handling the reporting of our war effort, and he said that he respected and admired the modern Soldiers,” added Galbraith.
“The most fascinating part of the phone call for me was not so much the re-telling of his experiences, but that he was thankful of our service. He was interested in what we were doing,” said Johnson.
“Mr. Wingett asked us about our mission and what we do here,” said Galbraith.
The 426th BSB assists the Iraqi Army with improving the Iraqi infrastructure. Galbraith and Johnson also shared with Wingett the successes experienced during the Iraqi national elections held in December.
The phone conversation took place after a 101st Soldier, Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Kozatek, a history buff, talked with a friend Army Staff Sgt. Kevin Coady, from the Oregon Army National Guard, who is a neighbor of the 84-year old Wingett. Phone numbers were exchanged and a time was scheduled, one that took into account the eleven hour time difference between Iraq and the Pacific Northwest.
The WWII veteran helped to connect the currently deployed Soldiers to a dramatic time in history.
“After having seen the ‘Band of Brothers’ series, we were excited to learn that Mr. Wingett knew many of the Soldiers featured in the movie,” said Galbraith.
Wingett revealed that he knew Don Mularkey and Dick Winters, both prominent member of the ‘Band of Brothers’ script, an award winning television miniseries about World War II, co-produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, which centered primarily on the exploits of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.
In October 2006, Wingett will attend a reunion for Band of Brothers survivors in Camp Tacoa, Georgia, where the 506th PIR originally formed for training. Wingett also participated in a visit to Normandy last year.