Longtime Dawsonville resident John Hewitt recently released “Broken Wings: a brother left behind”, a historical book about his father Jim, a graduate of the U.S. Army’s first paratrooper school in Fort Benning, Ga in 1941.
According to Hewitt, he knew that his father was raised in an orphanage and had been a paratrooper, but his parents divorced at an early age, so he had never had a close relationship with his father.
One day, while attending a funeral in Toccoa, where he grew up, Hewitt learned a local historian interviewed his father and the tapes of those interviews had been sent to Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks to use as part of the “Band of Brothers” miniseries on HBO in 2001. Hewitt said that sparked his interest in his father’s life and started his own research.
“That got me started doing genealogical research, taking me to South Carolina, which is where my father’s family was originally from,” Hewitt said. “I found out that he was actually from a very prominent family that traced back to the 1600s, but during the Great Depression, the family was land rich and cash poor, losing everything. A series of unfortunate events landed my father in an orphanage at six.”
Hewitt said that through further research he discovered that his father left the orphanage at 16, lied about his age, joined the army and enrolled in a short enlistment program, because the army was just starting to recruit potential paratroopers for the first ever U.S. Army paratrooper school in Fort Benning, Ga.
His father completed the paratrooper school and went on to serve at Camp Toccoa as a member of the 506th Paratrooper Infantry Regiment and later in the 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment as a jump instructor under Lt. Col. Robert Sink.
“I knew he had served at Camp Toccoa, but I didn’t know in what capacity,” Hewitt said. “When we were young, he just didn’t talk about his service that much. Then, I started finding out that he was actually part of the leadership team at Camp Toccoa and trained the guys who were later on immortalized in the Band of Brothers series. That’s why I wrote the book.”
"Broken Wings” details the childhood of Jim Hewitt and the obstacles he overcame, but John Hewitt said that the book is unlike the typical “hero worship” book in that it portrays some of the nation’s heroes as much more human than other historical books might.
“My father was actually discharged just four days before the soldiers were deployed to Normandy, the pivotal turning point for the war,” Hewitt said. “He was discharged just four days before that because of some mental health issues, so it portrays those guys in a different light and shows that they are human and that they did face pretty much the same challenges that each of us face on a regular basis.”
Hewitt has lived in Dawsonville for 24 years, and currently works as chief operating officer and award-winning columnist for The Champion Newspaper in Decatur, Ga.
“Broken Wings: a brother left behind” will be available on several online sites, including Amazon Books, in hard copy and digital formats/ Hewitt will hold book signings during this year’s Toccoa Military Weekend on Oct. 2 and at Currahee Vineyards on Oct. 3.
For more information about “Broken Wings: a brother left behind” including excerpts and information on how to purchase a copy of Hewitt’s book, go to www.BrokenWings.us