Honoring those who have made the ultimate sacrifice

  • Published
  • By Col. William DeMaso
  • 23rd Wing vice commander
On Nov. 22, Army Staff Sgt. Braind Williams, whose family resides in Valdosta, Ga., began his journey home from Iraq. Sergeant Williams was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Heavy Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Benning, Ga.

It was on Dec. 3, that he arrived at Moody by Kalitta Air, met by his father, step mother, me, the Honor Guards from Fort Benning and Moody, twenty members of the Patriot Riders, and a sullen crowd of fellow Airmen, comrades in arms, lining Robins Street from base operations to the south gate.

Sadly Sergeant Williams' life was cut short by a sniper as he dismounted his vehicle near an Army forward operating base in Iraq and his return to the United States is yet another reminder of the grim sacrifices we make in service to our nation.

The sun peaked through the clouds and the wind chilled us as the arriving jet set down on the runway. As it taxied to a stop at the distinguished visitor's pad at base operations, a wave of American flags fluttered in the breeze, each held by a Patriot Rider, who stood next to their motorcycle on the tarmac.

The parents of Sergeant Williams smiled gently at the sight, knowing that much of Moody was taking a pause to honor their son. But the reality of combat continued in the distance as A-10s in the bombing pattern at Grand Bay Bombing and Gunnery Range took dives at the ground targets, seemingly trying to protect those coalition forces on the ground looking the enemy in the eye.

After what seemed an eternity, the crew of the aircraft, accompanied by an escorting Army NCO, prepared for the arrival of Sergeant Williams' flag-draped casket. On key, the Ft. Benning Honor Guard silently made their way to the side of the aircraft. A solemn salute was rendered as the pall bearers bore the load and slowly, methodically took step by step toward the waiting hearse.

As the hearse moved off along the flight line, the Patriot Guard riders took place in the formation, followed by his parents' vehicle and my staff car.

As I drove in the procession through Moody, I was proud to see in a display of camaraderie and support, our streets lined shoulder-to-shoulder by our own Moody Airmen in honor of our fellow warfighter.

When Sergeant Williams is finally laid to rest in Adel, Ga., his memory and our loss will become woven into the fabric of our American history.