Why do we serve?
A lot of people join the military for one reason or another. I personally joined because of where my life was headed. I quickly gained a sense of patriotism that truly made my experience worth it. I fell in love with the way of life, the brotherhood, the friendships. Each person has their own experience and hold that near and dear to their hearts.
When someone exits the service, they often find themselves clinging to the memories of the greatest of times with their brothers and sisters. While some move on to bigger and better things, others have a legacy that remains untarnished to this day. Not knowing what legacy you leave behind, you go to the recruiter, you sign the contract, and you are now shipping to your initial training.
For some, it was a fun and easy experience. Others? Their future would truly be hell on earth. Without that brotherhood, the friendships… How far do you think you will go? Nobody knows until you get there. You often refer to it as a Band of Brothers.
On August 31, 1942 a man by the name of William J. Guarnere enlisted in the United States Army as an infantryman. From there he was assigned to Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. His first combat jump? D-Day.
Bill Guarnere was given the nickname “Wild Bill” because after his brother, Henry Guarnere was killed in the Italian Campaign at Monte Cassino, he showed nothing but a reckless attitude and a strong hatred for his enemies. He was often referred to as a “natural killer” by then LT Richard Winters. On June 6 he joined LT Winters and a few others trying to secure the village of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont. As they began to move, they heard a German platoon coming in with supplies, so like any good unit, they took up ambush positions.
After being ordered to wait for the command to fire, Guarnere was not entirely too sure that his leadership would attack and kill, so he grabbed his Thompson SMG and killed most of the unit on his own. Following that, he was declared the Platoon Sergeant of 2nd Platoon. To this day, that attack is used as a reference as to how a squad can defend against a much larger force.
In October 1944, Guarnere was injured when he went to check on his men (who were spread out over a mile) while riding a motorcycle he commandeered from a Dutch farmer. He was shot in the right leg by a sniper, which knocked him off the of bike and fractured his tibia, also leaving some shrapnel lodged in his buttock. He left to go back to England to recover on October 17.
During his recovery, he made it very clear that he wanted to go back to Easy Company. He wanted no part of another unit. And to be completely honest, who wouldn’t? So he polished his cast with black shoe polish, pulled his pants over the cast and walked out, in probably the most excruciating pain anyone could imagine. Sadly, he was caught by an Officer, court-martialed, demoted to Private, and returned back to the hospital. Like any good leader, he exclaimed that he would just go AWOL and head back to Easy Company. The hospital kept him a week longer and sent him back to his original unit. He got what he wanted.
He arrived back to his unit around December 10, 1944, just before they were sent to the Battle of the Bulge. Luckily for him, his paperwork about the court-martial and demotion never made it to the unit, so he was reinstated to the same position.
Unfortunately during a defensive operation on a hill, just southwest of Foy, the unit was hit with a massive artillery barrage. Guarnere lost his right leg in the strike while he was dragging his friend, Joe Toye (who also lost his right leg) to safety. This was the end of the war for Bill Guarnere.
William Guarnere is one of those men who came before all of us, who should be revered. Just like all of the others portrayed in ‘Band of Brothers.’ He is the definition of a hero, not because he served his country with distinction, but because of his actions during with those around him.
On March 8, 2014, William J. Guarnere passed away due to a ruptured aneurysm in Philadelphia at the age of 90. He was survived by his 2 sons, 9 grandchildren, and fourteen great-grandchildren.
I asked earlier why we serve? I firmly believe that Bill Guarnere served to defend this great nation. However once he was placed with his brothers, he served for not only the country, but for them as well.
Looking at his awards and decorations, some would say it was impossible for a man of his educational background to achieve such great milestones in his career. I say to you that some men and women were born to do something great. William J. Guarnere is one of those men.
His awards and decorations include the Combat Infantryman Badge, Silver Star, Bronze Star (w/ 1 Oakleaf), Purple Heart (w/ 1 Oakleaf), Army Good Conduct Medal, European-African-Middle Easter Campaign Medal (w/ 3 Service Stars and Arrowhead Device), World War II Victory Medal, Croix de guerre (w/ Palm), French Liberation Medal, Parachutist Badge (w/ 2 Combat Jump Devices), and the Army Presidential Unit Citation (w/ 1 Oakleaf).