FORT BRAGG, N.C., Dec. 14, 2010 — Even at 80 years old, Frederick “Moose” Heyliger was an enormous man, according to his grandson, who serves with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade.
Army 1st Sgt. Mark D. Heyliger, first sergeant of Company B, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, often is asked by young soldiers who “put 2 and 2 together” whether he knows “that guy in that movie,” and he says he does.
Heyliger, a veteran of five deployments, learned of his grandfather’s World War II exploits as a first lieutenant with Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, of the 101st Airborne Division “Screaming Eagles” the same way the rest of America did –- by reading the book and seeing the HBO mini-series, “Band of Brothers.” The grandfather Heylinger knew had earned a degree in ornamental horticulture and he sold fertilizer, among other jobs. He was a bit of a wanderer, with a grand plan to own an acre of land in every state 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,” he said. “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. When he enlisted in 1992, he became the first Heyliger in two generations to serve. “[My father] was always worried about having another fighting man in the family,” he said.
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. Since then, he has served three deployments to Iraq and two to Afghanistan.
Though Moose Heyliger never lived to see his grandson become a paratrooper, his jump wings were pinned on Mark 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,” the first sergeant said.
In 2004, wearing his grandfather’s wings, Mark 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,” the first sergeant said. “When I jump, I like to think of him. 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 at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La. After that, he said, he would like to finish his career either back at 82nd or with the 101st in his grandfather’s regiment, the 506th “Band of Brothers.”
“I always wanted to be airborne,” he said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)