Keller dedicates local roadway named after ‘Band of Brothers’ veterans
PHILADELPHIA, June 2 – At a dedication ceremony held in Philadelphia today, state Rep. Bill Keller, D-Phila., renamed the portion of Columbus Boulevard between Oregon and Washington avenues the William J. Guarnere and Edward "Babe" Heffron Memorial Boulevard.
"This is a permanent thank you to two American heroes who helped shape the course of history," said Keller, Democratic chairman of the House Transportation Committee. "Having met both men and experienced their love for their country and their home of Philadelphia, I know they would be honored to be recognized in this way."
Guarnere and Heffron served with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the 101st Airborne Division. Their stories were chronicled in the 2001 miniseries "Band of Brothers," produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, which highlighted Easy Company’s missions during World War II.
"These men constantly put themselves in grave danger to fight for our freedom," Keller said. "I can only imagine that what we see on screen, however harrowing the depiction may be, pales in comparison to the terror and destruction these men witnessed firsthand. Their camaraderie, courage and dedication will never be forgotten."
Guarnere, known as "Wild Bill," graduated from South Philadelphia High School in 1941 while working for Baldwin Locomotive Works building Sherman tanks for the U.S. Army. After enlisting in the Army, he served as a staff sergeant and paratrooper who made his first combat jump on D-Day as part of the Allied invasion of France. Guarnere went on to fight in the Battle of Normandy, Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge, and was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster, and the Purple Heart with two oak leaf clusters, among other honors.
Heffron attended Sacred Heart Catholic School and South Philadelphia High School, and worked for New York Shipbuilding in Camden, N.J., before enlisting in the Army. A private first class, he also fought in Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge before helping to liberate the Kaufering concentration camp in Landsberg, Germany. For his service, Heffron received the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal.
Both men, who remained great friends after returning home, passed away at age 90; Heffron, in 2013 and Guarnere, in 2014.
Today’s dedication was a result of Keller’s H.B. 1279, which was signed into law as Act 87 of 2015 and renamed a portion of the roadway in south Philadelphia.
Keller was joined by members of the Guarnere and Heffron families; Jim Kenney, mayor of Philadelphia; David Oh and Mark Squilla, Philadelphia city councilmen; state Sen. Larry Farnese, D-Phila.; and John Dougherty, business manager, IBEW Local 98.