Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Jesse L. Williams slain by sniper

A Fort Lewis-based soldier who won the Purple Heart on his first tour of duty in Iraq was killed during his second, his California family said.

Army Staff Sgt. Jesse L. Williams, 25, was killed Saturday by a sniper, said Santa Rosa, Calif., Mayor Bob Blanchard, a family friend. Williams, who had been serving in Baghdad, was assigned to the 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division based at Fort Lewis, Wash., his family said Monday.

Snipers were Williams' biggest fear in Iraq, Blanchard said. The mayor recalled Williams telling him on a recent trip home: "I can fight people eye to eye, but I can't fight back if I can't see them."

Williams, who won the Purple Heart after shrapnel struck his arm during a clash with insurgents on his first tour, is now up for a Bronze Star for rescuing two soldiers from a burning vehicle three weeks ago, Blanchard said. In that case, the soldier's unit came under attack and a roadside bomb ignited extra gasoline aboard a vehicle in which two of the occupants were trapped, he said.

"He saw the white-hot fire of combat on both his tours. He was right there," Blanchard said. "And you know what? That was Jesse, that's where he wanted to be."

Shortly before he left for his second tour of duty around Christmas, the young soldier spoke before the Santa Rosa City Council to support a proposed memorial to honor men and women who died serving their country.

His father, Herb Williams, who was among those behind the effort, recounted those words Sunday night.

"Jesse thought he would come down and talk about it, and now his name is going to be in it. It's just eerie," the elder Williams told The Press Democrat of Santa Rosa.

Williams left behind a wife, Sonya, and their 11-month-old daughter, Amaya.

From KIRO 7