Lebanon Daily News – Brad Rhen Staff Writer
IONA – Jordan Brown has never met Dick Winters.
But the 11-year-old South Lebanon Elementary School student is mounting a campaign to raise $100,000 toward a monument dedicated to the famed World War II veteran and other leaders that is planned to be built in France.
After reading a recent newspaper story about the effort to establish a monument near where Winters parachuted into France on D-Day, Brown decided he wanted to help raise money for it. Brown, who helped organize a fundraiser to send money to earthquake-ravaged Haiti in February, eventually settled on selling bracelets.
“Originally, we were going to try to do ‘Band of Brothers,’ but it was copyrighted, but we still liked the idea of a band,” Brown said.
The bracelets are similar to the yellow Live Strong bracelets developed by Lance Armstrong to raise money for cancer research. At the suggestion of Winters’ close friend, Lebanon architect Bob Hoffman, the bracelets are olive green, similar to the color of Army uniforms in World War II, and say “Hang Tough,” a phrase Winters would say to his men during the war.
Brown, a fourth-grader at South Lebanon, is hoping to get some of his fellow students involved in the project.
His mother, Yasmin Brown, said she the project is a great idea.
“I just thought it was a wonderful thing to do,” she said. “It’s something that’s child-driven, and I think that there’s something very heart-warming about the fact that these men, no doubt, when they went to battle, they were going to battle to fight for their kids’ and their grandkids’ futures, and here you have these grandchildren now coming back and wanting to say thank you.” Whether or not her son is able to raise all of the $100,000, Yasmin Brown said the project is “a win.”
“Hopefully they can raise the $100,000, but regardless, the children that get involved, they’re going to raise some amount of money toward the monument and documentary, but they’re going to learn about organization, teamwork, giving back to the community and saying thanks,” she said.So far the family has had 1,000 bracelets made and have ordered 2,000 more. They are asking for a $1 donation for each bracelet.
On Friday, Hoffman met up with the Browns at Jordan’s school. In exchange for a few bracelets, Hoffman gave Brown an autographed picture of Winters and a small autographed statue of Winters.
“I think it’s great because it forms a bridge to a younger generation,” Hoffman said of the project. “And it will help to make them aware of the continuity of sacrifice in this country, which is something we really don’t think about too often.”
Hoffman said the statue he gave Brown was a prized possession, but he did not hesitate to give it.
“We’re caretakers of physical possessions,” he said. “We’re just caretakers for a while, and I thought it would be nice to pass that on to somebody else to be the caretaker. Since this whole effort is to get a statue of Dick, I thought it would be nice for Jordan to have one at home that he could use for inspiration.”
Documentary filmmaker Tim Gray of Rhode Island is trying to raise $400,000 for the project, which will also include a documentary that will air on a national cable channel.
The statue will be located in Saint Marie-du-Mont, Normandy – the objective of Winters’ unit on D-Day. Sculptor Stephen Spears of Alabama will design the statue, and although it will depict Winters, it will also honor all Army officers who led soldiers into combat on D-Day, Gray said.
Gray said he was very impressed when he heard about Brown’s project.”The first thing my wife said is, ‘That’s a mini you,'” Gray said. “I think I took that as a compliment. This is an 11-year-old kid who already has a track record for doing things for people. Honestly, it restores your faith in young people.”
Gray said he put information about Brown’s bracelet campaign on his Facebook page, and he has already received inquiries about the bracelets from several people, including some in Europe.
“They recognize what ‘Hang Tough’ means on several different levels,” Gray said. “I’m very happy to have him as a part of our team.”
Winters, a Lancaster native, assumed command of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, shortly after parachuting into France in the early morning hours of D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Following D-Day, Easy Company fought across Europe, participating in Operation Market Garden, the Battle of the Bulge and eventually capturing Hitler’s “Eagle’s Nest” in Berchtesgaden, Germany.
Easy Company’s story was made famous by the book “Band of Brothers” by Stephen E. Ambrose and the 10-part HBO miniseries of the same name. The series, which was produced by Stephen Spielberg and Tom Hanks, won two Emmy awards in 2002, including best miniseries.
After the war, Winters lived for many years on a farm near Fredericksburg, where he built a house by hand. He now lives in Hershey.
The Browns will march in both the Annville and Lebanon Memorial Day parades and have received permission to set up a table near the ceremonies following each parade where they will be selling the bracelets.
Anyone who is interested in purchasing a bracelet or contributing to the campaign should email [email protected]
[email protected]; 272-5611, ext. 145