On Veterans Day, a father remembers his fallen son

Two days before Pfc. Phillip Brandon Williams was killed by a sniper's bullet in Iraq, the 21-year-old Gardnerville soldier called his father.

"They had him driving a truck for awhile," Brad Williams recalled in an interview Wednesday. "I said, 'Oh, that's a relief. You're a little safer. You have a little more metal around you.'

"He said, 'Dad, my job is to protect those people. I have to get back on the gun.'"

On Oct. 9, Brandon Williams died in Iraq, shot by a sniper as he guarded personnel who are trained to eliminate roadside bombs and other improvised explosive devices.

In the weeks that followed, his family has grieved for their loss and been comforted by the outpouring of support from friends and strangers, for Carson Valley's first military casualty of the war in Iraq.

He was the son of Brad Williams and Lisa Hall.

"Brandon had a servant's heart," Brad Williams said of his son.

As a South Lake Tahoe police sergeant and training officer, Williams said he talks to recruits about "the servant's heart."

"We are servants and we sometimes have to fight to serve people. Our job is not about money or medals," he said. "Our job is about protecting people and defending the defenseless."

Williams believes that's what led his son to the military.

"He knew people over there were trying to hurt him and his coworkers, but he believed in his mission so much."

Since Brandon's death, Williams said he and his family have received hundreds of condolences from the White House to an inmate at Pelican Bay State Prison in California.

"When I got the news that night, it was just devastating," Williams said. "As the days continued, I saw it was not just a devastating loss to me and my family, but that part of Nevada and the entire country mourned right along with us."

Williams said his son had no idea how many lives he touched.

"We've received letters from people who knew him years ago. He was a soldier for a little over a year, but he was a tremendous person for many years before that.

"Brandon liked people who didn't have any friends. He was just one of those types of kids,. I guess that's why he touched so many people and will be so sorely missed," he said.

The family takes great comfort in their faith.

"During his last leave in August, Brandon and I took time to talk about all kinds of things from girls and future plans to things with deeper meaning like his religious beliefs," Williams said.

"The thing personally comforting me the most is that he told me about his close walk with God. It was not lip service. In fact, he was more worried about my walk, he wanted to make sure I was on track.

"I missed him while he was gone, but looked forward to the phone calls and always had the hope of him returning. Because of our faith, I know I will see him again."

Williams said it was a struggle to find the right words to thank the community including his son's friends and the strangers who took such a personal interest in the life and death of the soldier.

More than 1,000 people attended Brandon Williams' funeral Oct. 21, filling the gymnasium at Douglas High School and lining the motorcade with flags and homemade signs as the funeral procession made its way to Eastside Memorial Park where he was buried with military honors.

"In the motorcade, seeing people along the side of the roadway holding the flag Brandon died for speaks monuments for everybody in the Valley," he said.

"Words are never enough to express the feeling of pride you have in your son, the gratitude to the community and the sorrow of losing him," he said.

Williams said he and his family are striving to move on.

Justin Williams, a U.S. Marine corporal who accompanied his brother's body back to Nevada, is going ahead with plans to be married in January.

Donations are coming in for a memorial for Brandon Williams established by the South Lake Tahoe Police Department where Williams and his brother Brian are sergeants.

And Brad Williams said he feels an obligation to be happy again.

Advice passed on to him from a Vietnam veteran helped him gain perspective on Brandon's death.

"He said we need to pursue happiness, that's what Brandon had fought and died for. Other veterans suffered loss and made the ultimate sacrifice for that pursuit of happiness and if we don't do that, it would be kind of a slap in the face.

"I miss him right now. It's very painful for me. I remember the little boy who would run to the door and give me a hug, and the little boy who asked questions like, 'Daddy, why do clouds fly?' To say I don't cry every day would be a lie, but one of my ultimate goals is to be able to pursue happiness again."


Army Pfc. Phillip Brandon Williams is to be honored Saturday at the dedication of the El Dorado County Veterans Monument in Placerville.

The monument includes 1,000 engraved bricks honoring American veterans.

"The memorial was pretty much completed when (organizer) Rich Buchanan heard the story of Brandon and called me and asked permission for him to be included. He saved the last brick from the memorial for Brandon," said Brad Williams, the young soldier's father.

The dedication is set for 1 p.m. Saturday at the memorial, at the corner of Fair Lane and Ray Lawyer Drive and the El Dorado county Government Center, Placerville.

Information: Richard Buchanan, 1-530-626-7762.


A memorial fund has been established in Brandon Williams' name through U.S. Bank. The account number is 153752191384. The fund was set up through the South Lake Tahoe Police Department where his father and uncle are sergeants.

Brad Williams said he hopes to use the donations to memorialize his son or "support the cause he was fighting to protect."


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