Sunday, December 13, 2009

Biggest Brothers

Band of Brothers is not meant to be watched in the dark, alone. It is soul marking and its enlightenment should be realized in the shadow of tree limbs splattered with tiny lights as the snow falls outside.

Every Christmas I dust off my boxed set and pop it in. From its brilliant beginning, where David Schwimmer has his Glengarry Glen Ross moment, to the freeing of the camps, Band of Brothers delivers life lessons. It redefines friendship and family and reminds us the cost of freedom before bombs and internet warfare.

A great performance by Damien Lewis made me one of the two dozen people who faithfully watched his series Life before it got canned. Other great sightings: An unrecognizable Matthew Settle (before Gossip Girl fame) as the crazy Lt. Spiers, a premier performance by Hollywood royalty Colin Hanks as a rich West Point graduate trying to make good on the front line, ghost appearances by producer Tom Hanks as a British officer, and a very young James McAvoy as an unappreciated Replacement.

Somewhere around Christmas Eve as I wrap the last present and warm my feet by the fire, the 101st is spending their holiday dug into a trench in below-zero Bastogne, shaving with shards of ice and eating frozen bread to survive. I think how opposite those conditions are to the current warriors in the 120 degree deserts of Iraq, yet their fight is the same. The only thing that changes is the face of the enemy.

Our freedom is never really won. Like the Stanley Cup, we get to keep it for a short time until someone bigger and stronger comes along and takes it away. We will always need 19-year old boys who believe they are invincible. I think of this as I watch my nothing-scares-him baby boy sleep fitfully in his crib. Having no siblings of his own, I wonder if he will someday bond with his brothers-in-arms in a faraway land, believing that Freedom is worth it and equally convinced he will come home someday.

As I watch history unfold on my screen for the eighth year in a row, knowing most of them will be dead by the seventh hour of this miniseries, I find myself cheering, screaming, and crying anyway. I like these guys. Elizabeth Edwards said the only way a dead person lives on is through those who knew them and remember. Millions of people know these young men now.

They will truly live in infamy. And well they should.

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