'Band of Brothers' grandson carries on airborne tradition
December 6, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Army News Service, Dec. 7, 2010) Aca,!" First Sgt. Mark D. Heyliger of the 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment is often asked by young Soldiers who have put two and two together, if he knows "that guy in that movie."
The veteran of five deployments always gives the same answer and says he sure does and then elaborates on his grandfather, 1st Lt. Frederick "Moose" Heyliger.
Ironically, the B Company first sergeant, learned of his grandfather's exploits with Easy Company, 506th PIR of the 101st Airborne Division "Screaming Eagles" during World War II the same way the rest of America did -- by reading the book and watching the HBO mini-series by the same name, "Band of Brothers."
The grandfather Heyliger knew had earned a degree in ornamental horticulture and sold fertilizer, among other jobs. According to Heyliger, his granddad was a bit of a wanderer who had a grand plan to own an acre of land in all 50 states so he could travel and camp all the time.
"I'd always known my grandfather served in the Army, and I knew that he had loved it, but he never talked about what he did during the war," said Heyliger, whose unit is part of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. "My dad mailed me a book while I was on recruiting duty. He said, 'If you ever want to know what your grandfather did, you need to read the book.'"
That was nine years into the South Bend, Ind., native's Army career. Heylinger enlisted in 1992, becoming the first Heyliger in two generations to serve.
After serving in Hawaii with the 25th Infantry Division, with the 101st, and as a recruiter, Heyliger came to the All American Division in 2002. He served with 3rd Battalion, 504th PIR in Afghanistan ('03) and Iraq ('04), the 2nd Battalion, 504th in Afghanistan ('05-'06) and Iraq ('07-'08), and 1st Brigade staff in Iraq ('09-'10).
Unfortunately, his grandfather never lived to see his grandson become a paratrooper, though the jump wings he had worn were pinned on Heyliger when he graduated from airborne school.
"I looked pretty silly because I was the only novice paratrooper running around with two combat jump stars on his wings," said Heyliger.
In 2004 wearing his grandfather's wings, Heyliger jumped into St. Mere Eglise, France, in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion. Now those wings sit in a box waiting to see what the youngest Heyliger, 11-year-old Kiefer, will do.
"I'm glad to serve and to carry on, to find what my grandfather enjoyed so much about the Army. When I jump, I like to think of him," said Heyliger. "What keeps me in the Army, though, is the people. The next generation of young guys is what keeps me going."
Heyliger will spend the next three years with the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La. Following that tour, he hopes to finish his career either back at the 82nd or with the 101st in his grandfather's regiment, the 506th "Band of Brothers."
(Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod serves with 1st BCT, 82nd Airborne Division public affairs.)