As Ashley Billings prepared to lay her soldier husband to rest in Florida, Gov. Mary Fallin ordered flags in Oklahoma to be flown at half staff through Monday.
Randy Billings, a 34-year-old chief warrant officer 2, and five others were killed Dec. 17 when a Black Hawk U-60 helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan.
Billings, who enlisted in the Army as a Heavener resident 16 years ago, will be buried in his wife’s hometown of Inverness, Fla.
The couple’s home was in Manhattan, Kan., at the time of his death, but they planned to move south after he retired from the military and start a family, Ashley Billings said.
“(The South) is just a place that he loved to be,” she said.
She described her husband as an amazing pilot and generous person who loved to hunt for alligators and be outside.
“He’s pushed me to be a better person for myself every single day of my life,” she said. “That’s the kind of person he was.”
Randy and Ashley Billings married five years ago. They met while he was attending flight school in Rucker, Ala., and bonded through their mutual enjoyment of the outdoors.
“I just knew he wasn’t like the rest of the guys in the world,” Ashley Billings said. “He had heart; he had love. There was something different about him.”
She and her family are suffering their second loss to war in the Middle East. Ashley Billings’ brother died in a 2004 helicopter crash in Iraq.
“It’s much harder because we’ve been through this before,” she said.
Although her family accepted Randy as their own child, she said, they were comforted by the knowledge that he “loved what he did and was going to do it right.”
Randy Billings served two tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division based in Fort Riley, Kan.
A memorial service is planned for Saturday morning at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Inverness, and Billings will be buried at Florida National Cemetery.
Fallin’s executive order went into effect at 5 p.m. Friday. Flags on state property are to remain at half staff until 8 a.m. Monday.