Bryan Douglas Willard
Captain, United States Marine Corps
RELEASES from the United States Department of Defense
No. 147-06 IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 19, 2006
Media Contact: (703)697-5131 Public/Industry(703)428-0711
DoD Identifies Marine and Air Force Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the death of eight Marines and two airmen who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. All 10 died February 17, 2006, when two CH-53 helicopters crashed into the Gulf of Aden in the vicinity of Ras Siyyan, northern Djibouti, while flying a training mission in the Godoria Range area. The Marines and airmen were deployed to Djibouti as part of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.
The Marines were assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464, Marine Air Group 29, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, II Marine Expeditionary Force, New River, North Carolina.
First Lieutenant Brandon R. Dronet, 33, of
The airmen were:
Senior Airman Aecia S. Good, 23, of Broadview Heights, Ohio. Good was assigned to the 92nd Communications Squadron, Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington
Staff Sergeant Luis M. Melendez Sanchez, 33, of Bayamon, Puerto Rico. Sanchez was assigned to the 1st Communications Squadron, Langley Air Force Base, Virginia.
The cause of the incident is under investigation.
Media with questions about these Marines can contact the Marine Corps Air Station New River Public Affairs Office at 910-449-5435.
For further information about the airmen, contact
the Langley Public Affairs Office at (757) 764-5411 or the Fairchild Public
Affairs Office at: (509) 247-4051.
Captain Bryan D. Willard will be remembered for the many lives he touched and for his generous spirit and wisdom that belied his 33 years.
Willard, of Enola, Pennsylvania, seven other Marines and two Air Force airmen were killed February 17, 2006, when two CH-53 helicopters crashed into the Gulf of Aden in northern Djibouti, Africa, during a training mission in support of operations in Afghanistan.
Yesterday, more than 50 mourners gathered under a cloudless blue sky to honor Willard as he was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.
A horse-drawn carriage carried Willard's flag-draped coffin in a procession. Strong winds tossed leaves across the grounds as a Marine band played taps.
Willard -- who is survived by his wife, Shannon; his father, David Willard; his stepmother, Sherry Willard; and his brother, Bradley Willard -- was the 32nd person killed in the Afghanistan conflict to be buried at Arlington, according to cemetery officials.
According to the Department of Defense, the other Marines killed in the accident were Lieutenant Brandon R. Dronet, 33, of Erath, Louisiana; Sergeant James F. Fordyce, 22, of Newton Square, Pennsylvania; Lance Corporal Samuel W. Large Jr., 21, of Villa Rica, Georgia; Sergeant Donnie Leo F. Levens, 25, of Long Beach, Mississippi; Corporal Matthieu Marcellus, 31, of Gainesville, Florida; Sergeant Jonathan E. McColley, 23, of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; and Lance Corporal Nicholas J. Sovie, 20, of Ogdensburg, New York.
The Air Force members killed were Senior Airman Alecia S. Good, 23, of Broadview Heights, Ohio, and Staff Sergeant Luis M. Melendez Sanchez, 33, of Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
On Thursday, about 150 people filled a Methodist church in New Kingstown, Pennsylvania, to remember Willard, who was known for his caring heart and infectious laugh.
"Willy," as he was known to friends, was an avid outdoorsman. He had been a Boy Scout as a child, and as a student at East Pennsboro Area High School in Enola, he was a hunter, wrestler and football player.
"He was a team player, with a tremendous amount of heart and spirit," said Craig Robbins, his assistant football coach.
During a recent visit to the school, Willard gave a pep talk to the football team during halftime. The team was losing.
The encouraging words were typical, recalled coach Jason Estright, a childhood friend. "He always had a smile on his face," Estright said. "He could take any bad situation and make you laugh."
A picture in the high school's display case honors the Marine and his service.
Willard graduated from Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania and completed studies in mortuary science from Northampton Community College. He had been a funeral director with Jesse H. Geigle Funeral Home in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Friends said he found his military calling later in life, after speaking with a recruiter on an Armed Forces Day. He was assigned to the Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464, Marine Air Group 29, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, II Marine Expeditionary Force, based at New River, North Carolina.
He met his wife while attending flight school in Florida, and they married three years ago.
"Every time I talked to him, he would tell me about all the really interesting people and experiences that he was having," said Todd Bedard, Willard's childhood friend who last spoke with him in September after Willard's second tour in Iraq. "He loved his wife deeply and always talked about how good she was to him."
Several friends who attended yesterday's service said they considered Willard a humble hero, even before his deployment. "I take a lot of what I do in this world from Bryan's example," Bedard said. "So many people loved him because he respected people so much."
WILLARD, BRYAN DOUGLAS
Posted: 4 March 2006 Updated: 9 March 2006 Updated: 18 April 2006
Photo Courtesy of Holly, April 2006