1. Military

Hundreds in Ocala pay tribute to Brooksville fallen soldier

Published Jul. 22, 2012

OCALA — The family church in Micanopy was too small to hold everyone who wanted to say goodbye.

So the family of Army Spc. Clarence Williams III gathered Saturday at Living Waters Worship Center in Ocala.

It was big enough to hold the hundreds who paid their respects to the 23-year-old Hernando County native killed in Afghanistan on July 8. And it was central enough so that his Brooksville family could gather together with all his aunts, uncles and cousins from Gainesville.

Clarence Williams Jr. said that's the way his son would have wanted it.

"He was most content with family," the father said.

His son was killed along with five other members of his military police battalion when their armored vehicle struck a roadside bomb in Wardak province, just south of Kabul. Army Staff Sgt. Ricardo Seija, 31, of Tampa was also killed.

Abrill Edwards, 22, took the stage Saturday and sang in tribute to her older brother:

"I love you. I love you Lord today."

As her daughter sang above her son's casket, mother Talisa rose to the music.

"Praise him, Mama!" the daughter yelled to her mother. "You know Clarence is in heaven!"

Williams was a graduate of Hernando High School and the middle child of three. Sister Samantha was the oldest. They were close, the younger two even more so.

"When you saw Abrill, you saw Clarence," their father said. "They were like hooked to each other."

The family moved to Brooksvile in 1990 when Clarence Williams Jr. was hired by the Florida Highway Patrol. He is a corporal now, and his son hoped one day to be just like his dad. He thought about becoming a trooper, or maybe a Hernando County sheriff's deputy.

"I guess he wanted to follow in my footsteps," his father said.

But first his son enlisted in the Army. The choir swayed on stage behind red, white and blue flowers. There were two photos of the fallen soldier.

In one, Williams was stoic in his dress uniform. Beside that image rested the medals he was awarded: the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

In the other, Williams smiled while dressed in Army fatigues. That was the Williams remembered at Saturday's funeral. "He always had a smile on his face," sister Abrill Edwards told the assembly.

Williams was trained in Missouri, stationed in Texas and always missed his family. It took 27 hours to drive home and nearly the same time to fly home.

Last Christmas, when Williams came home on leave, he visited his aunts, uncles and cousins in Gainesville. All they did was eat and go to church.

"We didn't have to do anything special," the father said, "just being together was enough." Clarence Williams Jr.'s son will be interred at Florida National Cemetery near Bushnell on Monday.