Patrick Williamson –January 2011 Shipment Honoree
2 Louisiana soldiers among 18 honored by ObamaBy Janet McConnaughey The Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS — Two Louisiana soldiers killed in Afghanistan were among 18 fallen service members honored Thursday by President Barack Obama at the Delaware air force base where their bodies were returned home to the U.S.
The bodies of Sgt. Patrick Williamson, 24, of Broussard, and Pfc. Brian Bates, 20, of Gretna in suburban New Orleans, were on the plane met early Thursday by the president at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
“Brian met the president. And that’s all that matters. I know he would like that,” his wife, Enjolie Bates, said in a telephone interview from Lakewood, Wash. She said Bates loved his job and the Army.
“He liked the idea of fighting for his country. He thought that’s worth it. He believed in it,” she said.
He planned to make the Army his career, said his grandmother, Marlene O’Briant Tully of Gretna.
Both Bates and Williamson were in the Army’s 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry division and were killed Tuesday in Afghanistan, relatives said. Funeral arrangements were incomplete.
Bates drove a Stryker light-armored vehicle, “which he told me was the safest job they had. They hit a bomb. That’s all I know. All seven of them were killed,” Tully said.
Williamson’s father, Leon “Buddy” Williamson, said Thursday that his son recently was promoted to sergeant and was among soldiers in the brigade killed this week in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province.
Williamson said his son was the first member of his family to enlist.
“At the end of the day, he was doing what he wanted,” Williamson said. “He’s wanted to join the Army and be in the infantry since fifth grade.”
He said he didn’t know what had sparked Patrick Williamson’s interest in the Army.
“Patrick lays claim to a badge of honor that very few people can lay claim to: having served his country honorably and well,” he said. “The rest of us can thank him because while the rest of us enjoy the fruits of freedom, he paid the price for it.”
Enjolie Bates said her husband joined the Army to take care of her and their children, Brylie, a 2½-year-old girl, and Braiden, a 1½-year-old boy.
“Braiden, he just started saying ‘Dada,’“ she said.
Tully said her grandson, whom she raised along with his 17-year-old brother, called her weekly. He talked to her Saturday and to his wife on Monday, she said.
She said Jefferson Parish was honoring him by flying flags at half-staff, and she thought it was a “wonderful thing” that an assigned Army escort would be with him until he is buried.
About the president’s decision to meet the airplane, Tully said, “He ought to be there for every last one of them.” A bit later, she said, “Obama needs to do something. Our kids are just dying. For what? What kind of war is this? We’re not trying to win.”