Tonight, we gather to remember the life and honor the service of a fine young man who gave the last full measure of devotion while wearing the uniform of our country:
His mission is ended and he has earned his rest.
Please go below the fold and take a moment to pay tribute to him and participate in our virtual memorial service.
The IGTNT team asks you to bear in mind that these diaries may be read by friends and family of the service member chronicled here. May all of our remembrances be full of compassion rather than politics.
William R. Wilson III was known to his family and friends as Billy. He was a captain on the lacrosse team at Williamsville North High School, and graduated from there in 2003. As a teen he loved working at the pizza place down the road and spending time with his two brothers. He enlisted in the Army in 2005, and said the reason he stayed in the Army is that his brothers-in-arms reminded him of his brothers at home.
Wilson was a member of the 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment of the 172nd Infantry Brigade, based in Grafenwoehr, Germany.
He was serving in Paktika Province in the eastern part of the country, training Afghan soldiers and police who will take over the country's security after U.S. forces completely withdraw in 2014.
Wilson was known as an incredibly caring and compassionate man who believed in everything he was doing. Kristen Fahnestock, a high school classmate of Wilson described his military career this way: "This was something he was meant to do. He loved it."
His Facebook postings showed that he enjoyed interacting with the children in the country he was working to stabilize. He posted several pictures of himself with local children, and some of the pictures had humorous captions. On one picture of Billy high fiving a local child the caption read: "Show me some love little man". Another picture of him talking with a child was captioned "Great little guy".
Wilson was at home in Western New York visiting his family and friends just a few weeks ago. On March 12th, he posted this on Facebook: "Just wanted to thank all the fam and friends back home for a great time on leave. Sorry I wasn't able to see some, but i'll catch you next time. Really had a blast and looking forward to the summer. Thanks! Slowly making my way back to the boys!" "The boys" was Wilson's way of referring to his brotherhood of soldiers.
But there will be no next time, and no fun with friends this summer, because of what happened soon after the 27-year-old squad leader made his way back to the battle zone.
In a sad and ironic twist given his work training Afghan police, Staff Sergeant William R. Wilson III was shot near a police checkpoint in Paktika province by someone who appeared to be a member of the Afghan local police. He lost his life on Monday, March 26th as a result of these wounds from small arms fire.
Sgt. Wilson's family was too choked up to speak with local television reporters, but they released several pictures to the media on Tuesday so that people would have a better sense of who their son really was. His father gave a simple but powerful quote to the media for the Western New York community: "Thank you for your prayers."
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has directed that the flags on all state buildings be lowered to half-staff in honor of and in tribute to New York state service members and those stationed in New York who are killed in action or die in a combat zone. As a result, Governor Cuomo has directed that flags on state government buildings be flown at half-staff on Monday, April 2 in honor of Sgt. Wilson. The Governor's office also released this statement: "On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest sympathies to the family, friends, and fellow soldiers of Staff Sergeant Wilson. We will always be grateful for the service and dedication of this New York soldier."
Billy Wilson was known as someone who put others first. As a son and older brother, he was always there for his parents, William and Kim, and his brothers, Wesley and Jeremy. He was also a former boyfriend of Jacquie Hirsch, an inspirational young woman who was diagnosed with leukemia not long after she graduated from Geneseo State College with plans to become a teacher. Wilson stood by her during her health struggles, spending hours and days at her bedside she battled advanced stages of the disease that eventually took her life in 2008. Even after her death, Wilson continued to comfort her family, and always fought to make it back to Western New York in July to be at the annual Tinker Ball dance to raise money for the foundation in her honor. "It's a little bit of a comfort they're together now," Fahnestock said, calling Wilson and Hirsch "soul mates."
As news began to spread of death of Sgt. Wilson, his parents' one-story brick home was surrounded by friends and neighbors who stopped by to share stories, show their support for the Wilson family and comfort them. Dozens of cars parked on the family's front lawn, which was outlined in small American flags. Two large U.S. Army flags flew in the front yard, and the trunk of a huge old-growth tree was wrapped in yellow ribbon. The family is known in the neighboring community for putting out a big patriotic display whenever they welcome Billy home on leave.
After their return from Dover Air Force base, they will put out the display one last time as they bring Billy home for good.
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, blue jersey mom, CalNM, Chacounne, Ekaterina, JaxDem, jimstaro, joyful, kestrel9000, maggiejean, monkeybiz, noweasels, racheltracks, SisTwo, SpamNunn, TheFatLadySings, twilight falling, Wide Awake in KY, 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/or send kosmail to Sandy on Signal.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.