HARTFORD, CT (CBSNewYork/AP) - From his days as a student athlete at a Stamford high school, Brian Bill was clear on his career goal: He wanted to join the elite Navy SEALs.
WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau With The Story
Bill, who was among the SEALs killed in a weekend helicopter crash in Afghanistan, was remembered Monday by family, friends and teachers as a dedicated young man who wanted to be the best at anything he pursued.
His family said he wanted to return to graduate school after completing his military service and hoped to become an astronaut. He was also a mountaineer, a skier, a pilot and triathlete.
“We’re heartbroken. Brian was a remarkably gifted, thoughtful and compassionate young man,” Bill’s stepfather Michael Parry told reporters, including CBS 2′s Mark Morgan.
Bill had just been promoted to Chief Petty Officer when he lost his life in Saturday’s helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
President Barack Obama honored Brian and his fallen colleagues. Bill had been a a Navy SEAL since 2003.
Under a large American flag, a distraught Parry described his stepson’s zest for life, and how the young man relished being a Navy SEAL.
“He loved life, he loved a challenge and he was passionate about being a SEAL. He loved and respected his SEAL teammates,” Parry said.
During his time at Trinity Catholic High School, he was an athlete, playing hockey and soccer.
“Brian, through sheer determination and willingness to accept challenges and and willingness to sacrifice for other people, is a hero,” Bill’s former soccer coach, Bob Pepi, said.
“He set his standards high. He was that kind of person,” said Kimberly Hess, a friend who graduated from Norwich University in Vermont with him in 2001. “He was remarkably gifted and very thoughtful. There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for you no matter the time or day.”
“We thank all the SEALS who gave their lives this week and share our sorrow with the families of those dedicated men who fought for our safety and freedom,” Bill’s family said in a statement.
Patrick Sasser, who first met Bill when they where both 13-year-old boy scouts, said his friend’s personality was infectious.
“If something funny took place, he had a smile that would light up the room, and that’s something I’ll always remember about Brian,” he said.
The 30 U.S. troops and eight Afghans who died in Saturday’s crash of the Chinook helicopter were on a mission targeting a Taliban leader when an insurgent with a rocket-propelled grenade reportedly fired on the chopper and shot it down, officials said Monday. It was deadliest single loss for U.S. forces in the decade-long war.
The helicopter was transporting the troops to an ongoing battle early Saturday between coalition forces and insurgents in eastern Wardak province, NATO said in a statement.
Hess said Bill had been decorated many times for valor on deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“His death is tragic and it’s really fitting that he was going to help others,” she said.
Diane Warzoha, who had Bill as a student in a language class at Trinity Catholic High School in Stamford, said he was in many ways a typical high school student, but it was no surprise that he fulfilled his goal of joining the SEALs.
“Brian just wanted to do his best, to protect other people. Brian wanted to be the best at whatever he did. Challenge did not deter him ever,” said Warzoha, an assistant principal at the school.
“We’re deeply, deeply saddened. Our hearts and prayers go out to his family. It’s just so sad,” she said.
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