PHILADELPHIA - After parachuting into Europe during World War II, battling along a strip of road called Hell's Highway in the Netherlands and surviving the freezing woods of Bastogne surrounded by German troops, William Guarnere and Edward Heffron do not consider themselves heroes.
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Guarnere, 84, and Heffron, 84, are among the surviving members of the fabled Easy Company memorialized in the HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers." To them, the real heroes are the men whose bodies stayed buried in that foreign soil and the mothers who sent their sons off to war, praying for a safe return.
It is so their sacrifices are not forgotten that Guarnere and Heffron have written "Brothers in Battle: Best of Friends," recently published by the Berkley Publishing Group.
"Sitting there in the plane, you wonder why you're up there," says Heffron. "You could be home, but then when you land there, and you go through these villages and you look at those people's faces ... now you know why we're here."
Heffron sits in Guarnere's Philadelphia house, surrounded by pictures of soldiers the two served with and mementos emblazoned with the Screaming Eagle of the 101st Airborne Division, of which they were part.
The book, with a foreword by actor Tom Hanks, one of the miniseries' producers, tells the story of how the two young men from South Philly became paratroopers, fought in some of World War II's major battles and survived to form a lifelong friendship.
Both men constantly wonder how it was that they survived the war and went on to such long prosperous lives, and they say they are left with a sense of war's random luck and of the responsibility to remember the men who were not so lucky.
"They ain't never going to forgive you if you don't," says Heffron, pointing toward the sky.