VILSECK, Germany — The 2nd Cavalry Regiment paid respects on Wednesday to Staff Sgt. Jesse L. Williams, described by those who knew him as the prototypical soldier, a loving father and a role model to the young men and women under his charge.
Williams, of Elkhart, Ind., was one of six troops who died on Dec. 17 when their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter was forced down in Afghanistan’s South Khorasan province. Williams had deployed twice before, once to Iraq and once to Afghanistan. Of the six who died, Williams was the only soldier from 2CR. The others were based out of Fort Riley, Kan.
His death was a blow to a regiment that hadn’t lost a soldier in combat since 2011.
Friends said during a memorial rehearsal Tuesday, which was attended by a Stars and Stripes reporter, that his loss would be felt by everybody who knew him.
Staff Sgt. James Guild told Stars and Stripes that while Williams had a reputation as someone who loved physical training and Michigan football, he was best known for his good heart and strong character.
“He was that guy who stood up for the little guy,” he said. “He was a big guy, pretty intimidating. Very rough and tough. But as intimidating as he was, he was one of the most humble people I knew.”
Since most members of Williams’ unit — Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, Regimental Support Squad —are still deployed to Afghanistan, they could not attend the memorial, held in a small chapel at Rose Barracks. Instead, they sent scores of written testimonies, anecdotes and personalized memorials to be read at the ceremony.
“His love for his job and his profession was dwarfed only by his love for his family and his friends. He always had a smile on his face and a positive thing to say and words of encouragement for anyone who needed it,” Capt. Michael Klemmer, the RSS headquarters commander, said in a letter read aloud during the memorial service.
“Headquarters and Headquarters Troop has lost one of its best and in doing so, we as a family have become smaller. But as we get smaller, our bonds become tighter and we become stronger. We will honor the legacy of our hero, Staff Sgt. Jesse Williams, through our actions and our purpose.”
Williams is survived by his daughter, Madison L. Williams; his mother, Deborah M. Passerallo; and his father, Thomas I. Williams.