Retired Col. Edward Shames, the last surviving officer of the historic Easy Company, 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, was the guest speaker at the Veterans Day breakfast GEICO holds each year to honor associates for their military service.
Shames Easy Company, made famous in the book and miniseries Band of Brothers, fought in some of WWIIs most important battles, including Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge.
While the heroics of Shames and the Easy Company are now legendary, Shames told breakfast attendees that few paratroopers felt brave on D-Day as they prepared to jump from G-47s onto the shores of Normandy.
Anyone who said they were not sacred or nervous was either an idiot or lying, said Shames, who still calls his native Hampton Roads, Virginia, home.
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Though Shames had the misfortune of parachuting into Carentan, a town heavily defended by Axis forces, he demonstrated the leadership and survival skills that would quickly earn him a battlefield commission to second lieutenant.
If you work hard and if you want something bad enough, then you can get it, said Shames, who is now 96. I wasnt the best, but I worked hard. I was a good soldier.
Shames and his men fought from France into the Netherlands and Belgium and eventually into Germany, where they were the first to reach Hitlers Eagles Nest in Bavaria. Along the way, they liberated concentration camps.
Wayne Petro, an Air Force veteran who leads GEICOs Military Team, called Shames living history.
What an incredible experience it is to have him here at GEICO to speak to our veterans, Petro said. He is such an extraordinary example of the kind of service veterans have given to our country.
GEICO was founded in 1936 to exclusively serve military service members and government employees. The companys connection to the military remains strong and includes special discounts for active duty service members and veterans; a department dedicated to supporting the needs of the military community; and employment opportunities for vets and reservists, including the 12-month-long Veteran’s IT Professional Development program; the program combines classroom work and real-world experience to transform vets with no previous tech experience into full-time GEICO IT associates.
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