He was killed by an improvised explosive device on Tuesday, January 31 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan, near the town of Now Zad.
His mission is ended and he has earned his rest.
Please take a few minutes to remember the life and honor the service of this heavily decorated Marine who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
PLEASE note that these comments may be read by friends and family who are overcome with raw grief. It is our custom here to leave politics aside as we offer our remembrance tributes with respect and compassion.
William Stacey was born in Hartford, Connecticut. He lived the majority of his life in the Seattle, Washington area, and his parents, Robert and Robin Stacey, are both professors in the University of Washington's History Department. "He'd always been interested in military things ever since he was very small," his father said. As a boy, he loved playing baseball, and enjoyed seeing himself as part of a team. "He was the guy who did what the team needed him to do."
Will Stacey attended Roosevelt High School in Seattle and graduated in 2006. The DoD originally listed Redding, California as Stacey's hometown, but he only lived in Redding for a short time to attend Shasta College and play baseball. It was while he was in Redding that he decided to enlist with the Marines.
Stacey was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton in San Diego. He was a mortarman who began serving in the Marine Corps in January of 2007. He was deployed five times, with four deployments in Afghanistan.
Will Stacey had a reputation for being cool under pressure. His father described him as a born leader with wisdom beyond his years. "We are very proud of him. He’d come to be quietly proud of himself, and he had every right to be,” his father said. "Will saw himself as helping to defend his country and trying to make life better for the Afghan people. He jumped at the chance to do the training of the Afghan army and police. He saw that as a really important step to handing over defense of the country to the Afghans."
Lawrence Dabney, a reporter with the online publication thefastertimes.com, had a chance to observe Will Stacey under battle conditions in the Fall of 2011. He described Stacey in this way: "He commanded the squad I was embedded with when I ended up in my first firefight. He is the sort of man you would want commanding your troops. He helped turn Now Zad from a scarred hell to a place where hundreds of children can walk to school every day. He brought sanity and compassion to a place sorely in need of both."
While Marine Sgt. Stacey was on foot patrol on Tuesday, January 31, an enemy explosive device took the life of this fine young man who was just weeks away from returning home. Stacey was the only one hurt in the IED explosion.
Will's younger sister, Anna, was the first to see the two Marines in full uniform get out of a car and approach their Roosevelt home as she was leaving for school. She turned to her father and said, "Oh, no. Oh, no." No other words needed to be said. "We both knew," Bob Stacey said.
Anna then wrote this about her brother: "He may not have been blessed with a long life, but boy did he live the one he got to the fullest. In just 23 years, he loved so many people, and so many people loved him. I know that if in my lifetime I can touch just a fraction of the people that he touched, I will have lived a good life."
Kimmy Kirkwood, Will Stacey's girlfriend, had known him since high school. The young couple had all kinds of plans for the future. Stacey was expecting to come home in March, his overseas deployments over, and hoped to continue at Camp Pendleton as an infantry instructor or drill sergeant. Though he had struggled in high school, he talked about applying to college and studying history. Kimmy and Will planned to celebrate his return home by attending the Marine Corps Ball at Camp Pendleton in April (for those who were deployed and couldn't make the traditional Nov. 10 ball). "We had never been to the ball. He sent me money to buy a dress," Kirkwood said, with tears in her eyes.
Stacey’s family found a letter he had written in case he died serving his country. The letter was published in the Seattle Times:
"My death did not change the world; it may be tough for you to justify its meaning at all," he wrote. "But there is greater meaning to it. Perhaps I did not change the world. Perhaps there is still injustice in the world. But there will be a child who will live because men left the security they enjoyed in their home country to come to his. And this child will learn in the new schools that have been built. He will walk his streets not worried about whether or not his leader’s henchmen are going to come and kidnap him. He will grow into a fine man who will pursue every opportunity his heart could desire. He will have the gift of freedom, which I have enjoyed for so long. If my life buys the safety of a child who will one day change this world, then I know that it was all worth it."
William Stacey's personal service awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Unit Commendation, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two bronze star devices, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with silver star device, and the NATO Medal-ISAF Afghanistan. He was also awarded a posthumous Purple Heart. His family plans to bury him with full honors in Arlington National Cemetery after a local memorial service.
His mother Robin sent this statement to ABC News: "[Will] is but one of a number of men and women who have risked and sometimes lost their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq, just as we are but one of thousands of families whose hearts are breaking today.
"None of us who love him know how to measure the vastness of this pain."
I Got the News Today is a diary series intended to honor, respect and remember. Its title is a reminder that almost every day a military family gets the terrible news about a casualty of war.
Each of these lives is precious. They all have loved ones, families and friends. Please rec and comment in these diaries to pay your respects.
Diaries about the fallen usually appear two days after their names are officially released by the DoD, which allows time for the IGTNT team to find and tell their stories.
Click the IGTNT tag to see other entries in the series, which was begun by i dunno, and is maintained by Sandy on Signal, noweasels, monkeybiz, blue jersey mom, Chacounne, twilight falling, joyful, roses, SisTwo, SpamNunn, JaxDem, CalNM, Wide Awake in KY, maggiejean, racheltracks, kestrel9000, TheFatLadySings, Ekaterin, and me, TrueBlueMajority.
If you're willing to write a diary for this series, even once every other month, please leave a message in this diary and contact Sandy on Signal at sandy3660 AT comcast DOT net.PLEASE note that these comments may be read by friends and family who are overcome with raw grief. It is our custom here to leave politics aside as we offer our remembrance tributes with respect and compassion.