Staff Sgt. Brian Williams, who is deployed from the 87th Security Forces Squadron at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., suffered serious injuries after an improvised explosive device detonated while he was on a mission April 25 outside Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan.
That same day, Williams, who is a military working dog handler, was transported to the KAF trauma center where he underwent the first of several surgeries on his left leg. He was subsequently transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany before arriving at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., just four days later on April 29.
The active-duty staff sergeant suffered the loss of his left leg above the knee as well as multiple shrapnel wounds due to the explosion. Williams acknowledged the quick medical response of his Army brethren; he said he believes their medical care on scene and use of tourniquets saved his life.
Williams arrived at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on board the Mississippi Air National Guard C-17A Globemaster III named "The Spirit of the Purple Heart." His family, in addition to members and leaders from his home station, traveled to Maryland in a show of solidarity and support to their wounded warrior.
"(Lt. Gen. Judith A. Fedder) invited a small group of us to join her as she boarded the transport plane when it landed," said Lt. Col. Jeremy Novak, the 87th SFS commander. "The plane was full of wounded warriors and it took a moment for Brian to pull himself together when he saw us there. Brian was visibly moved when we made our way directly to his bed."
Fedder, the deputy chief of staff for logistics, installations and mission support from Headquarters U.S. Air Force, awarded the Purple Heart and the Air Force Combat Action Medal to the Air Force junior NCO.
"We all said a few words to Brian, then departed the aircraft while the medical technicians went to work preparing him for transport as General Fedder, the ranking member of the delegation, greeted the other warriors on the plane," Novak explained.
Novak and the welcoming committee drove to Walter Reed where they met Williams' father and stepmother as Williams was admitted to the intensive care unit.
"Brian was doing great. He was talkative and joking around. He was doing much better than even the medical staff expected, so they were already making arrangements to move him out of ICU and into a regular patient room in the Warrior Wing," Novak said.
Williams moved from the ICU to his permanent room May 3, coinciding with Novak's subsequent visit when he was joined by Williams' parents; Col. John Wood, the 87th Air Base Wing and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst commander; Chief Master Sgt. Terrence Greene, the 87th ABW and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst command chief; and Staff Sgt. Emily Christofaro, of the 87th SFS. Wood presented the wounded Airman with a card signed by hundreds of men and women from the 87th ABW.
"Brian's sacrifice will forever be etched in our hearts and minds," Wood said. "I am honored to call him one of our own; I am honored to call him 'hero.' Tragedies never get easier to handle -- as a commander we want our military to return safe and unharmed. Sergeant Williams may have suffered grievous injuries, but he is now here with his loved ones, able to tell the tale. That in itself is a testament to his warrior spirit and his perseverance -- his commitment to finish the job. Our hearts are with him and we will support him for as long as he needs us and beyond."
Williams, who is from Phoenix, Ariz., is likely to be under care at Walter Reed for an extended period. He was approximately mid-way through a six-month deployment. This was Williams' sixth deployment since he joined the Air Force in 2000.
His military working dog, Carly, was unharmed in the incident and is currently enroute back to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. The four-legged partner was foremost on the injured service member's mind.
"After Brian spent time with his family, his thoughts quickly turned to Carly," Novak said. "We are working feverishly to get Carly back to the base. Carly was unharmed by the blast, but both dog and handler need to see each other. I think it's important to both of them."
Carly, as a military working dog, is cleared to visit Williams in the hospital following his redeployment to the 87th SFS.
"We wish nothing but a speedy recovery and well wishes to this brave young man, one of our security forces brethren, who now bears the scars of battle," Novak said. "I join our entire unit in honoring not only his bravery and dedication, but also in supporting his family during this difficult time."
Williams' parents are both retired Soldiers. His father, Lionel Williams, is a retired sergeant first class who currently resides in Peoria, Ariz. His mother, Catherine Williams, retired as an Army staff sergeant and calls Sierra Vista, Ariz., home.
Williams extended his gratitude to his deployed unit, the Soldiers who were with him, the medical personnel downrange and in Germany and the aircrews who transported him so expediently. Finally, Williams stressed the need for everyone to take self-aid/buddy care training seriously.
"This young man's positive demeanor and praise for his comrades in the wake of such personal trauma is humbling," Greene said. "His selflessness in thanking and acknowledging others amidst the tumultuous events surrounding his injury, speaks volumes about his character. I believe it is also indicative that Sergeant Williams' future will reflect the positive outlook he pervades in the face of such a challenge."