Band of Brothers (2001) – Finding comfort in courage

There are two things I remember about the time Band of Brothers first came out in 2001: I was working at a job I hated, and the show seemed to be an EVENT because there had never been a series of that scope up until then. Saving Private Ryan had awakened my interest in history, particulary World War II history, and with Tom Hanks’ name attached to Band of Brothers, I knew I had to at least check it out.

Band of Brothers is a 10-part miniseries based on the book of the same name by Stephen Ambrose, about the men of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infrantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. The key feature of the book is that it tells the story of World War II from the perspective of one group of soldiers who just happened to take part in some of the biggest engagements of the European theater – D-Day, Market-Garden, the Battle of the Bulge, and finally the taking of Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest retreat in Berchtesgaden. It’s not the usual approach in most history books of chronicling the war from the point of view of the generals who made the big plans. It’s not a bland history lesson enumerating a mere timeline of events. It follows one company from their paratrooper training until the end of the war.

The miniseries stays almost completely true to the book, so you really get invested in these men and their stories. When HBO aired the first two episodes, I wasn’t completely sure if I would like it, plus I remember that there was some rom-com I wanted to watch on another channel. So I recorded Band of Brothers (or BoB) just in case it would turn out to be interesting, while I watched my rom-com. “Just in case”? Talk about stupid. I can’t even remember the name of that other movie that I gave up on halfway through.

But BoB? I watched that tape every day until the next episode came out. And I did the same thing for every episode that followed. I was really unhappy at my job because I had to work nights, weekends, and holidays, but every morning when I got home I’d put on the tape and get lost in the exploits of Easy Company. It put things in perspective and reminded me that as miserable as I was, at least I wasn’t in a goddamn war.

BoB was the first DVD I ever bought, long before I even had a DVD player. The care that went into the show was evident in the box set – a tin container inspired by the packaging of a soldier’s kit.

 

My sister thinks that the only reason I like BoB is because of the handsome men. And let me be honest, with an all-male cast, there’s a very high probability of finding eye candy. I do have a spot on the shallow end of the pool, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I had a massive crush on Damien Lewis when this came out (he played Richard Winters, the universally respected leader of Easy Company).

But joke’s on you, Tammy! Far more than loving the eye candy, I was also inspired by these men. Each episode featured interviews with the veterans, and seeing these unassuming old men as they recount their experiences, juxtaposed with the actors playing their younger selves, highlighted how heroic yet modest they were. That’s what I take away from BoB. No  matter how dark things were, these men just did the job. And I always hope that even a little bit of their courage will rub off on me.

That’s why I’m re-watching the series now. You do what you can to get through tough times, and this is my coping mechanism. So now I’m binge-watching and re-watching every night, just like old times. Airborne all the way!