I was inspired by Dean’s recent post about the show, Supernatural, and its showcasing of male relationships and brotherhood. This evoked memories of the show that awakened my own inspirations and longings for brotherhood — the miniseries, Band of Brothers.
Produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, this HBO miniseries is the spiritual successor to Saving Private Ryan. It follows the true story of the Easy Company regiment of the 101st Airborne Division during World War 2, telling in gritty detail the major battles and tribulations they faced.
I was a freshman in high school when I watched Saving Private Ryan. Like many viewers, I was powerfully impacted by the horrific, grisly images of violence and gore that war brings. Spielberg’s direction, the harrowing battle scenes, the acting, and John Williams’s moving score are all terrific, and the series gave me a new appreciation for veterans.
However, what stood out most for me in the film was the camaraderie among the soldiers. The scenes where men slowly died of bullet wounds while being cradled in the arms of their fellow soldiers moved me.
Were men even allowed to show such compassion, even when a comrade was dying?
Band of Brothers presents very similarly to Saving Private Ryan with its visual style and extreme realism. But compared to Saving Private Ryan as a two-hour movie, Band of Brothers tells its story in ten hourlong episodes — ten hours to get to know these soldiers to the point where they feel like our own brethren.
When these brothers die, it’s much more of a gut punch. The longer running time also expands on the camaraderie among the soldiers.
The series begins with the company’s basic training under the harsh command of Captain Sobel (David Schwimmer). After Sobel gets ousted, Lieutenant Dick Winters (Damian Lewis) takes over and becomes the main focus of the show.
We see the company drop into Normandy on D-Day, win the battle of Carentan, face a devastating loss in Operation Market Garden, endure a brutal winter in the Battle of the Bulge, liberate a concentration camp of Jewish holocaust victims, and steal Hitler’s cutlery at the end of the war.
We watch the camaraderie and brotherhood of the soldiers of Easy Company bloom as they become closer than brothers amid the horrors of war. When some are killed or wounded, they are held in their brothers’ arms.
This leads me to my YOB pseudonym, “Eugene Heffron.” It comes from a combination of two characters: “Doc” Eugene Roe (Shane Taylor) and Edward “Babe” Heffron (Robin Laign). They share a small yet touching relationship in my favorite episode, “Bastogne.”
This particular episode centers on Eugene Roe, one of the company medics during the Battle of the Bulge, occurring in the icy dead of winter. When the allied forces get surrounded by the Germans with few supplies, winter clothing, and other provisions, Eugene struggles to keep up caring for the wounded soldiers.
Eugene is my favorite character and the one I relate to most. He’s the quiet loner of the company but still works hard to care for his wounded brothers. He is also haunted by the suffering of the wounded men he tries (and sometimes fails) to save. He has a seemingly supernatural calming touch to the men in such pain.
Eugene’s relationship with Edward Heffron starts off rockily when he asks Heffron for any spare morphine. Edward goes off on him for not addressing him by his nickname (“Babe”) and walks off in a huff.
Later, Edward watches helplessly as one of his closest friends, Julian, gets shot in the neck, though remains alive. Pinned down by a hail of German bullets, they are forced to retreat and leave Julian to slowly bleed to death, alone in the snow.
Edward grows despondent over the loss of his friend, and Eugene can’t find him in his foxhole. Much to his surprise, he finds Edward in his own foxhole being cuddled by a fellow medic. Eugene comforts him by handing him some chocolate and referring to him as “Babe.” The three men snuggle together in the foxhole for the remainder of the night.
Now, in all fairness, the soldiers snuggled for practical reasons, staying warm in the cold. As opposed to some who may cuddle for the joy of physical touch.
Watching this for the first time, my high school mind thought: are men seriously allowed to do this?
Edward warms up to Eugene and becomes a caring friend by the end of the episode. They share a foxhole, and Eugene patches up a wound on Edward’s hand as they keep their eyes on the German line. Eugene finally refers to his new friend by “Babe,” and it’s a touching little relationship. The warmth of their friendship is an oasis to their frigid, cold, war-torn world.
Needless to say, the episode moved me deeply. If you’d like to watch the aforementioned scenes, I’ve found a handy dandy YouTube video that compiles them.
Just a warning: there is graphic violence and strong language in these clips. If you’d like to skip the violence and watch the foxhole cuddle scene, it comes at the 1:55 mark.
After watching the series thousands of times, I longed for my own “band of brothers.” Beyond the military, it seems like the only other environment that fosters this sort of thing these days are athletic teams. I wouldn’t last long in either environment. This is a shame. This is something I think all men need, regardless of their orientations.
I’m grateful Band of Brothers introduced me to the concept of true brotherhood at a young age. Had I not seen it, I may have grown up thinking the only type of intimacy between people is sex.
While I may be sexually attracted to men, my longings for relationships like those of Easy Company are completely nonsexual. My longings are for the warm feelings of having brothers — men who know you and are family to you.
At long last, I feel like I have found my band of brothers here at YOB and in the “Side B” world at large: men who know me, love me, and will be there for me, even at the end.
I do strongly recommend giving Band of Brothers a watch. It’s not for the faint of heart, but if you made it through Saving Private Ryan you’ll be fine here. It’s a great series about camaraderie and brotherhood in the face of evil and darkness from a long lost time.
One last thing. Eugene Roe is a very religious character, and at one point in “Bastogne” he takes a break from the carnage in his own foxhole where he recites this prayer of St. Francis:
“Lord, grant that I shall never seek so much to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, or to be loved as to love, with all my heart.”
It’s a prayer I try to live by, too.
Have you seen Band of Brothers? What other favorite shows or movies encapsulate brotherhood well?