The Fort Benning community said goodbye Friday to one of its own.
In a ceremony held on a chilly autumn morning in a quaint chapel on Kelley Hill hundreds of soldiers and civilians gathered to pay their last respects to Staff Sgt. Briand T. Williams, killed Nov. 22 in Iraq.
Williams, 25, of Sparks, Ga., died in Numaniyah at the hands of an enemy sniper while providing security for a U.S. State Department Provincial Reconstruction Team in the Wasit Province.
Known to his many soldiers as “Sergeant Will,” Williams served with the 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. He was assigned to the unit in September of 2007. The 3rd HBCT deployed to Iraq in October.
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Williams enlisted in the Army in 2002 after graduating from Valdosta High School. His mother, Tonya Flippen, of Valdosta, said her son was determined to be a career soldier.
“I was very proud of my son,” Flippen said following Friday’s memorial. “He has always made me proud since day one. His mission was to go into the military and retire. That was his job ... He died doing what he loved.”
On Aug. 1, Williams was promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant. Being in a leadership position suited the well-liked soldier. Pvt. Wayland Waldrep said “Sergeant Will” was tough on him and others, but only because he cared about the lives of the soldiers in his charge.
“Staff Sgt. Williams was a leader, a mentor and most of all a friend,” Waldrep said. “I still remember the time we got into a PT argument. We smoked each other for like an hour straight. Or the time when he grabbed all the Skittles from the MREs (meals ready to eat). We went fishing numerous times. We caught nothing. But it wasn’t about fishing. It was about the time we bonded together. He taught me how to be a better soldier and how to be on time ... He never looked for the easy way out to do what’s right for the situation. He was a good man.”
To read more about Williams' memorial and his life as well as view video from Friday's ceremony please read tomorrow's Ledger-Enquirer and log on to www.ledger-enquirer.com/videos/