Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Military News

Clarence Williams' sister recalls faith of Army soldier killed in Afghanistan

BROOKSVILLE — The last time Abrill Edwards spoke to her older brother, Clarence Williams III, he shared with her how Afghanistan had reaffirmed his strong Christian faith.

Williams, a 23-year-old Army soldier, was just two or three weeks away from the end of a six-month tour in the war-torn country.

"He told me how precious he knew life was, just being around a bunch of killing," Edwards, 22, recalled Tuesday. "He told me he read his Bible every day and he knew he was covered by God. He wasn't worried."

Hours later, Edwards, who lives in Orlando, got a call from her older sister, Samantha. She heard her mother, Talisa, screaming in the background.

Military officials had just visited their parents' ranch home off Yontz Road to inform them that Williams, a 2008 Hernando High School graduate, had been killed along with five other soldiers when their armored vehicle ran over a roadside bomb Sunday in Wardak province, just south of Kabul.

Coalition and Afghan forces are trying to secure areas of Wardak that insurgents use as a gateway to the Afghan capital, where they stage high-profile attacks on Afghan government and NATO targets.

As siblings growing up, Edwards said, she and her brother were like Frick and Frack. They graduated together at Hernando High. They were going to join the Army together, too, but Edwards changed her mind.

They called each other goofy names.

What's up, big head? Nothing, fat lip.

Sometimes, when he was bored, Williams suggested they take a drive up State Road 50. He would get behind the wheel and open up to his little sister, and she'd respond in kind.

I love you. You're like my best friend.

You're like my best friend, too. You are my best friend.

Now, Edwards is struggling with the reality that her brother, the middle child between, is never coming home to Brooksville.

There are moments when the tears come. Edwards recently learned that she is pregnant. When she told her brother, Williams said he knew he was going to have a nephew.

"He spoke as if he knew he wasn't going to be here," she said. "He said, 'You're going to say my brother told me you were going to have a boy.' "

The family's strong faith, Edwards said, is helping them cope. They know he's watching them.

"He's home," Edwards said as she stood in the shady front lawn of her parents' home, thunder booming overhead. "He's in heaven. That's better than this home."

Williams was an avid hog hunter and fisherman who was happiest in the woods or in the water. He played football at Hernando High and sang in the choir at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Brooksville.

Their father, Clarence Williams Jr., is a corporal with the Florida Highway Patrol who served in the Army and still is a reservist. Williams wanted to follow in his father's footsteps, and to experience some adventure beyond Brooksville, so he enlisted in 2009 for five years, with plans to become a military police officer.

He had earned an associate's degree in criminal justice and wasn't sure whether he was going to re-enlist, but definitely wanted to continue his education, his sister said.

He last saw his family in December, and left for Afghanistan in February. The siblings spoke often by webcam or phone. Williams was able to wish his sister a happy Independence Day last week.

Edwards said the reality of her brother's death will sink in when she sees his body. His remains are expected to arrive at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa in the coming days, and he will be interred at Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell. As of Tuesday, funeral plans had not been set. The parents declined to talk at this time.

"He's in my heart and my spirit," Edwards said. "We've got the same blood running through our veins. He's not going anywhere. He's still here with me."

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or [email protected]

 
Comments
What’s it like for military families who have to move so often? Meet the Snelsons

What’s it like for military families who have to move so often? Meet the Snelsons

Alexandra Snelson sat on a brown leather couch between her younger sister and her mother and talked about what it’s like to pick up and move again and again as a military child.In June, she was introduced to her sixth home.She is only 10."Well, I do ...
Published: 08/13/18
Processing system will speed claims, care, new VA secretary tells Tampa crowd

Processing system will speed claims, care, new VA secretary tells Tampa crowd

TAMPA — Speaking to a gathering of the nation’s oldest veterans service organization, Robert Wilkie introduced himself Friday as new Department of Veterans Affairs secretary and touted a plan to fix one of the oldest challenges facing those who serve...
Published: 08/10/18
Howard Altman: Homeless veteran finally agrees to leave the woods behind

Howard Altman: Homeless veteran finally agrees to leave the woods behind

Thomas "T-Man" Brown called me up Wednesday afternoon with news that came as a welcome surprise.A former Army staff sergeant who works with Tampa Crossroads helping homeless veterans, Brown was exuberant."Randy the roofer is finally coming out of the...
Published: 08/09/18
SOCom rolls out plans for 2019 Warrior Games in Tampa

SOCom rolls out plans for 2019 Warrior Games in Tampa

TAMPA — U.S. Special Operations Command, which synchronizes the global war on terror, is gearing up for a new mission.The command is working to make sure the Department of Defense Warrior Games, which are coming to Tampa next year between June 21 and...
Published: 08/07/18
Updated: 08/12/18
Proponents win effort to have traffic signal installed in front of Haley VA hospital

Proponents win effort to have traffic signal installed in front of Haley VA hospital

TAMPA — They worked it like a military campaign — Operation Traffic Signal.It wasn’t exactly the Normandy landings, but lives will be saved, proponents promise, with their victory in a four-year effort to get a traffic signal installed in front of th...
Published: 08/03/18
Questions arise over active military burn pits as Bilirakis moves to help victims

Questions arise over active military burn pits as Bilirakis moves to help victims

PALM HARBOR — As Congress takes up legislation to help veterans exposed to toxic burn pits overseas, military leaders acknowledged Wednesday that one pit still operates in Syria — as well as smaller pits throughout the Middle East where the waste tha...
Published: 08/01/18
Updated: 08/02/18
Epilogue: Michael DeLong, retired Marine three-star and former CentCom deputy commander, has died

Epilogue: Michael DeLong, retired Marine three-star and former CentCom deputy commander, has died

TREASURE ISLAND — Like a lot of young men, Michael P. DeLong got some important life advice from his father.But unlike most men, Phillip DeLong was a Marine colonel and fighter pilot who had the distinction of being an ace in World War II and Korea.T...
Published: 07/30/18
Return of remains from Korea brings back memories for local families

Return of remains from Korea brings back memories for local families

Sharon Cook was happy to learn Friday that the remains of U.S. service members who disappeared during the Korean War were apparently being returned after nearly seven decades."I had such a smile on my face when I read about it," said Cook, of St. Pet...
Updated one month ago
Lawsuits open window on shadowy network SOCom uses to arm Syrian rebels

Lawsuits open window on shadowy network SOCom uses to arm Syrian rebels

Three years ago, Navy veteran Francis Norwillo was handling a rocket-propelled grenade when it suddenly went off.The blast at an overseas weapons range killed him and injured four others — a driver, an interpreter and two other Americans who, like No...
Updated one month ago
Iraqi interpreter whose citizenship fight was profiled in the Times to become an American

Iraqi interpreter whose citizenship fight was profiled in the Times to become an American

An interpreter who risked his life helping U.S. forces in Iraq and then fought for two years to become a U.S. citizen will soon be an American.On Friday, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service notified Haeder Alanbki, 36, that his request for c...
Updated one month ago