Fallen Heroes of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Remembering the servicemembers who died in the service of their country.

Air Force Maj. William R. Watkins III

37, of Danville, Virginia.
Killed in action while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Watkins was assigned to the 333rd Fighter Squadron, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. Died on April 7, 2003.

Please send information, photos, and corrections for Air Force Maj. William R. Watkins III.


Contributions to the Families of the Fallen


Leave a message in memory of this servicemember, and/or to the loved ones left behind.

Please report inappropriate messages

"I feel that may be a captivating point, it made me suppose a bit. Thanks for sparking my pondering cap. Now and again I am getting such a lot in a rut that I just really feel like a record. word brain games"
Ernest of Singapore

"I met Mr. Salty while living in Mt. Olive, North Carolina when I was younger. I'm 17 now and every year on September 11, I remember him. I recall saying he was my boyfriend and I remember when Mrs. Mel and his first child was born. I remember him taking me up in planes, flying me back from trips, and always making me laugh. I have weird memories too; putting their driveway in their house and my first memory of ever watching the Olympics. He is and always will be my hero, no matter how much or how little I remember about him. I visited ground zero back in February, and I left a small memorial and prayer for you, Salty in the church. I love you with all of my heart and I thank you for all you did. Rest in Peace and be with your brothers in their time of need, please! <3"
Codi Alyssa Brindle of Newton Grove, North Carolina

""Salty" was one of a kind! ha, I worked the duty desk in the 333rd FS and deployed with Maj Watkins with the 335th FS to Qatar when this happened. I was there when he stepped for that misison along with "Boot" Das, something I will never forget. Maj Watkins had that attitude... that if he liked you, you were fine. But if he didn't, haha, better stay out of his way. I was fortunate enough that he liked me, at least I think. haha, to his wife and family, I hope better days have come to you and just know that you guys aren't forgotten. It's 2010 now and still his memory lives on.
p.s. still loving the RUSH cover concert his wife did at the Deid!"
Kyle Johansen of San Antonio, TX

"”Honor and Remember” - “Project Compassion” We love our Soldiers! We love our country and we cannot express enough love and compassion to the families of our fallen heroes. War does not discriminate – It breaks our hearts to see the faces of the fallen. We want to give this gift to the hero’s Mother, Father and/or spouse. We are a 501c3 nonprofit organization! Almost 2,100 portraits have been completed and shipped to the parents and or spouse - at no cost as this is a gift from one American to another!
This is a gift! We have wonderful sponsors who help with the costs, and want you know that everyone here at Project Compassion does and will always CARE.
Contact us directly at Projectcompassion@manti.com or go to www.heropaintings.com . If you have already had a portrait completed, we pray that you are enjoying the portrait and God Bless You.
Sincerely and Respectfully,
Project Compassion of Manti, Utah USA

"I had the privilege of working with Bill at Camp Chanco one summer, and was heart broken to recently find out he died. Bill was one of the most wonderful people I ever met. While I wish I could find some insightful words to express my sincere condolences to his family, I found a message that Bill wrote at the end of camp that seemed so appropriate to share... "May you all carry forth the light. Keep shining." I plan to remember this each and every day of my life, in honor of Bill."
Emma of Raleigh, NC

"blessed are the souls who fought for our country and never made it home. leaving loved ones behind feeling sorrow and alone.
tears of remembrance embrace those who carry your sprite on. your are in many thoughts and prayers even though u are gone.
a rightious man a wrongful death,
blessed prayers as your laid to rest.
the good you've done u will never know.
Rest in peace god bless your soul"
casey taylor of BONITA SPRINGS, FL

"To those who knew Bill, his wife and two children are doing fine. William and Mary Allison are now in school and doing very well. William now knows about his father and how he died. Melissa is still in the Air Force and keeping her "chin up"....She is still single; Bill would be a hard act to follow. I am close by and have a photo of Bill's last flight off of the Kitty Hawk to look at hanging in my home. I am now living in the house that Bill purchased while at Seymour Johnson. Mel will keep it. Mel's Mom"
Mary Newlon of Goldsboro, NC USA

My son recently traveled to Maxwell AFB in Alabama for Air Force ROTC summer training. After I dropped him off at the airport, I noticed that he had taken off and left a bracelet in my car that he could not take with him. It is inscribed as follows:

My son has worn it ever since he got it last year. I did not feel right leaving it to sit in my car, so I picked it up and put it on and have been wearing to serve not only as a connection to my son while he's away, but also as a tribute to your fallen hero, "Salty".

After having worn it now for a week, I wanted to learn more about the man behind the name, so I looked around the internet and found this site, along with others that have given me a face and story to go with the bracelet.

Although 5 years have passed, I know the pain of his loss, and the memory of what he meant to your family will never fade. Thank you for the service that he gave and your family gives still to our great country.

I'll keep Salty and your fine family in my thoughts and prayers."
Ken R. of Jarrettsville, MD

"I know this is an extrememly late entry but i just recently learned of Col Watkins death. As a member of Rolling Thunder Maryland Chapter One i was assisting in doing clean up at Arlington Cememtery and just so happen to end up standing in front of his head stone. I served with Mr Watking back during his Navy days with the "Sunday Punchers" what a great guy and leader even during his younger days. May God continue to bless his family...."
Terrell Randall USN Ret of White Plains, MD

"January 1, 2008
To the family of Maj. William R. Watkins, III:
William gave the ultimate sacrifice and will be held in the hearts of Americans forever. I cannot and will not let our fallen heroes be forgotten. My deepest sympathy to you. "Some gave all."
Peggy Childers
"Don't Let The Memory Of Them Drift Away"
Peggy Childers of Carson City, NV

"I served with Bill when he was a JO in VA-75. We went on the MED cruise together on board USS JFK OCT 92'-APR 93'. I was saddened to learn of his passing and I very grateful for his service."
AE3 Patrick S. Regan of Rochester, NY

"Major Watkins,

I wish that I could have known you more, what little I do know and remember dosen't seem to fill my memory very much. I remember the day it happened, I remember standing in formation at your memorial and the jets flew over, I was crying, and it hurt. We had lost one of our own, our family. I had thought to myself why couldn't I have said more to you, had more converstaions, real discussions about, Christ, and life, and your family. I was your life support, but I felt like I missed out on a great oppertunity to know a wonderful person. Then when I got back to Seymour and they had the service and I saw your wife and I cried again, I believe she was pregnant. It made me even sadder. Now I know, you are with God, you are sitting beside Jesus and having great conversations with him. You are flying higher that you ever flew here on earth. You are missed, I will never forget you. God bless the Watkins family may he watch over you all, thank you for all that you have done."
SSgt Holly Gibbs of Westerville, Ohio stationed with 74 ARS Life Support Grissom IN, formerly with 336 FS Life Support Seymour Johnson NC

"I was honored to be asked to do the funeral for Bill Watkins several years ago. It was a highly attended Funeral in Halifax. After I did my final prayer for Bill at the cemetary, all the military tribute and flyover occurred. That is when i lost it! Indeed Chanco lost a great friend, a faithful servant, and a hero for us all. I want to attach the sermon I preached that day. Farewell good Friend....We will Remember! Bill Taylor

Sermon for Major William R. Watkins, III St. John’s Episcopal Church, Halifax, VA - May 3, 2003 By The Rev. William B. Taylor, Jr.+

Each one of us must face the realities of life everyday. Each one of us faces the challenges, which beset us in our families, in our workplaces, in our Commonwealth, and in our Nation. Sometimes the realities of life are not so good. Sometimes that reality is death. Death is truly a strong power. It can separate us from those whom we love; it can bring moments of loneliness for those who survive; it can make us call into question all that we believe. Today we face that reality. And in a very real sense a face has been put on the tragedy and horror of war. Operation Iraqi Freedom has become very real for us. It has come home to Virginia; to South Boston; to Halifax County, to each one of us here gathered. It no longer just nameless faces on CNN or MSNBC. The face we see is our hero, William, Bill, “Salty” Watkins. Today we are faced with the death of a person whom we respected and loved. Indeed death is real and death is powerful.

But I am here to tell you that this is not the end of our story today! If it were, there would be no reason for us to be gathered here together. We are here because we realize that death with all its power, is not the final word, and in Christ is overcome.

The older I get, the more I realize how little I really know, but what I can tell you I do know is this from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans – “I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.”

Nothing can separate us from God and His Love. What a glorious promise this is – it turns death in all its reality into that which is beautiful, hopeful and joyful.

We American’s often think of ourselves as the most advanced people on earth, and in many ways this is true; we have been able to send men to the moon and back, we have created smart bombs and moab bombs, we have created instant communication, we have DVD’s and HDTV’s, but in other ways there is much we can learn from our neighbors in other countries, if we just stop a minute to listen. In some ways they have a less cluttered understanding of life and death. For instance, when someone dies we say something like “He has departed,” or “He has passed on,” or “She has left us.” Christians in some African countries, when talking about a loved one say, “He has arrived,” or “He has reached his destination.” Indeed this is a beautiful way of expressing the reality of death. For us as Christians, death is not the end of life; it is the beginning. It is the beginning of new life, in a much more glorious way than we have ever experienced.

William Watkins has arrived with His Lord. He knew the reality of death – he also knows the reality of death. By his deep-rooted Easter faith, Bill was a man who dared to live. And as he dared the circumstances of this life, he has helped to make this world, and this community a safer place for our children and us.

This is a very sad day, yet this is a very glad day. There is grief felt by all of us, and rightly so, but we must remember that the grief we experience is not for William, but for ourselves. There is emptiness in our lives and we are saddened. But along with our tears of sadness, we also have tears of joy. It is Joy in the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection.

Every time I would see Bill or get and e-mail, or talk with him on the phone or get the ever-faithful Christmas letter, I could experience with Bill that Joy! For Bill was one of those rare persons that, at least in my experience of him, was the eternal optimist.

It must have been ten or eleven years ago now, but as Director of Youth Ministries and Camp Chanco for our diocese, I had a grand idea that we should have a Junior High Retreat during the Christmas Break just before New Year’s. I got it all planned, designed the program and recruited staff – Bill included. We were ready for the 80 or so lively pre-adolescent teens who had signed up. But then something happened I hadn’t planned on -- SNOW. As it began to snow and accumulate, my first thought was to cancel. I called the staff folks. Bill was the first I called. I think he was stationed at Oceana in Virginia Beach at the time.

Bill said, “Lets do it!” So Bill arrived Thursday night at Camp Chanco in the blizzarding snow, then my wife and I, then a couple of others. Bill had a blue Jeep at the time and we all decided it would be lots of fun to go 4-wheeling up and down the steep road we have at Chanco to the beach on the James River. I figured that riding in a Jeep with an experienced aviator who flew A-6 Intruders, I would be pretty safe, at least he couldn’t travel several thousand miles and hour. How wrong I was. I think we spent more time airborne than on the ground.

Yes, William Watkins was born to fly. William Watkins was born to help others dare to live life to the fullest. At that same event, Bill shared his story and faith journey with 80 young teenagers, telling them of a Loving God and that they had nothing to fear as long as they knew that they are in the presence of Him who has power over death. It is in this hope that we can live, for we like Bill can believe what Jesus tells us in the Gospel reading this morning from St. John, “I am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.”

It is with Christ that we have the assurance of Everlasting Life. He is the one whom we follow – for we know we shall be with God in the place he has prepared for us. Today this is His promise. Today this is reality.

Many of us knew William as Bill. Still others knew him as Salty, others as Major, for another daddy, for another sweetheart, another brother, another son, and still others friend. But for all of us, we know William Randolph Watkins, III as an American, a patriot, and a true hero that has touched our lives personally and has touched every person in this Great Land we call the United States of America.

Farewell my friend Bill, until we meet again. Next time maybe you’ll take me flying! AMEN."
The Rev. Bill Taylor

"Maj. Watkins,
I would like to say thank you to you and your pilot for your service and sacrifice for our Country. And to your family and loved ones, I wish to extend my deepest sympathy."
Mike Casey of El Paso, Texas

"I am the mother of two Woodberry Forest boys-The school where this brave man spent some years. I can't imagine the sadness in losing your son, and thank him for his sacrifice.We are on our way to Pearl Harbor this week, and I will keep him in my prayers."
Page of Mt. Airy, NC

Its been a while, dude but I think about you often. Especially, when I was over there this summer. Mel and the kids are always in my thoughts and prayers. We'll listen to JB again one day, my friend."
Woody of New Freedom, PA

"As I sat at my computer again today I popped open my CD Drive and put a CD in with the writing QATAR 2003 on it. I clicked on the icon I've been opening for these past three years named Baghdad. I sat back and watched the video once again of the wooden plaques I made for Maj Watkins and Capt Das. The only difference today from other days was that I watched it with my son of 17 months. As I held him tight I felt a since of pride. The pride you feel when you serve your country and feel your really truly doing it for a reason. That day back in 2003 when I was presented with the assignment of constructing a memorial plaque for both of these heroic men I never thought I would still be reflecting back and felling a deep since of pride. Today was the first time I did a search for these two heroic individuals and when I saw there pictures I was overcome with tears. I wanted to say thanks for doing what you did and allowing all of us to be free. I never had the chance to meet either of them while stationed in Qatar during those 9 months, at least I don't believe I did. But the days I stick that CD in and watch the video I feel as though there right with me. I have served my country for over 12 years and I continue to do so because of what these men have given up. To the family of both Maj Watkins and Capt Das, you should feel great pride of what both of these men stand for and what they mean to this country. Thanks"
Jason Kessler of Patrick AFB, FL

"This memory hits hard even today. I am at a lost for words. I was an F-15E Crew Chief assigned to the 335th Chiefs. I was unable to deploy with the Chiefs due to a PCS move to Kadena AB, scheduled for May 2003. When I received the word of what happened from a fellow crew chief deployed, I was devastated. The lost of ones life in combat is never forgotten. What hit home was the fact that I had crewed 88-1694, the F-15E lost that day, for the past 5+ years while stationed at Seymour Johnson AFB. The fact that two amazing pilots had gone into combat with this remarkable machine and did not return to base hits me still to this day. This is something I will never forget. Unfortunately I never had the honor of meeting Maj. William R. "Salty" Watkins III, nor Capt. Eric "Boot" Das. They were assigned to the 333rd Fighter Squadron. Both names will forever be with me. I want to thank the family and tell them how proud each and every one of us are for the bravery in stowed in these two men who took that plane into combat. These are two great warriors never to be forgotten.

SSgt Chad A Calahan
DCC Aircraft 88-1694
Seymour Johnson AFB

"I am an Air Force ROTC cadet at the University of Alabama and I wear,
every day, a KIA bracelet with Major Watkins' name on it and the date of
his death, 7 April 2003. There is not a day that goes by that I read the
name at least a dozen times and think about what an amazing sacrafice he
has made for our country and how hard his death must be for your family.
I just wanted to say, briefly, that I am honored to wear his name as he
is one of thousands of heros that have given their life for the
betterment of this world and country during this current conflict. My condolences go
out to your family and I hope that it is a comfort to let you know that
every night I say a special prayer for Major Watkins and his family, all
strangers to me but yet at the same time I feel even the slightest
connection just by this small token I wear. I am attending combat
rescue officer selection in the next year and hope to be a pararescueman
after I commission, so hopefully I may be able to save the lives of
future airmen downed in combat."
Armon Drysdale of Tuscaloosa, AL

"Rest in Peace BRAVE WARRIOR!"
DOUG of Farmington Hills, MI

"To the family of:William R. Watkins I am so sorry for the loss of your love one. My heart cries out for you in your grief and you have my thoughts and prayers. He died a hero defending freedom. May you have the peace and understanding that only comes from God. Prayerfully we will all meet in Heaven one day where we will rest in the arms of Jesus. If you need prayer or need someone to talk to, please call or write my pastor: Rev. John Pearrell 11677 Brown Bridge Rd., Covington, GA 30016. (770)787-1015. Your friend in Jesus Christ, Polly Ballew Covington,Ga"

"Salty was my POC at the Seymour Johnson air show in 2002. We spent a lot of time together that weekend, and I learned he was one of the finest men I have ever met - funny, bright, sincere, dependable, and a fellow parrothead to boot! I snapped a picture of him before we departed, and that picture now hangs on my office wall. I think of you often, and my prayers go to Mel and the kids. We miss you and love you, always."
Dave Isner of the Carolina Mohawks

"To the family of Major William R. Watkings III, I recently purchased a memory bracelet of fallen soliders and William's was the name engraved on my bracelet. I am truly honored to wear this bracelet and to be constantly reminded of your bravery. Thank you for the freedom I have today. My boyfriend is currently a 2nd Lt. for the air force and I now can understand through all of this why he is so happy to be fighting for our country. It's men and women like you that mean so much to us here. Thank you so much and may God bless your entire family, and please let them know you look down on them with a smile everyday!!!!"
Fawn of Michigan

"Dear William and Family,
I recently purchased a KIA braclet in order to have a tangible reminder of all the soldiers who have died in Iraq to provide freedom for so many. The random name selected was yours, William, and I have worn and will continue to wear it proudly. Thank you for your sacrifice -"
A future Air Force Officer of Richmond, VA USA

"Dear William and Family,
I recently purchased a KIA braclet in order to have a tangible reminder of all the soldiers who have died in Iraq to provide freedom for so many. The random name selected was yours, William, and I have worn and will continue to wear it proudly. Thank you for your sacrifice -"
A future Air Force Officer of Richmond, VA USA

"Thank you William for defending the freedoms we all cherish. Blue skies airdale, God Bless you. From a very grateful American family"
The Shaw family of Pasadena, Maryland

"My son was born on Feb 23, 2004 and his name is William Watkins and when I saw a special on Nightline it named the fallen heros and I thought "when one door opens another one closes" and I am even prouder of the name I chose knowing it also belonged to a American Hero!! God Bless the family of William WatkinsIII!!"
Christi Watkins of Houston, Texas

Please KNOW so many people share your sadness, and we are remembering your family in your loss and your deep grief. Your HERO, Wiliam will be remembered by name. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. God Bless you. Pat & Sandi Breckenridge from Montana "

"In Loving Memory..Its been a year..

At the rising of the sun and at its going down, We remember them.
At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of Winter, We remember them.
At the opening of buds and in the rebirth of Spring, We remember them.
At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of Summer, We remember them.
At the rustling of leaves and the beauty of Autumn, We remember them.
At the beginning of the year and when it ends, We remember them.
As long as we live, they too will live;
for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.
Rest in Peace Dear Soldier!! We will NEVER FORGET!"
The Grogan Family of Lakeland, TN (4/7/04)

"Major Watkins, goodbye soldier and thank you. You are my hero."
Bill of Houston, Texas

"Thank you William Watkins III, you will not be forgotten. Your bravery goes beyond words. I want to express my deepest gratitude for your sacrifice. To the family and friends, my prayers and deep condolences in your loss. May God strengthen you from knowing that fellow Americans and people around the world care about you and grieve with you in your loss. God bless you all. A very appreciative fellow American,"
Leo Titus of Grayslake, Illinios

"While I don't know you or your family, my heart goes out to all of you. As an AF brat, I am deeply moved by the commitment and sacrifice made by William and his family both before and after his untimely death. My father was ranking NCO at SJAFB in the late 70's and part of the Avionic Maintainence Squadron.

May you find the strength to get through the days and may the knowledge that he will not be forgotten by grateful Americans help you somewhat."
Lea of Hamburg, PA

"Thank you for fighting for our freedom William...I know that you died doing something that you loved."
Your First Cousin, Jody Moore of Springfield, MO

"Salty - It was an honor to work with you and I will always remember you. You are with God now -- I will see you when I get there. Mel - My thoughts are always with you and the children. God Bless You, William & Mary Alison."
Janice Gagnon of Goldsboro NC

"william was a great piolt, father, friend, son, husband, grandchild, and cousin. william i miss you so much and i have had a really hard time getting over your loss but i know that it is nothing compared to melissa, william, amy, butch, and mary garret. we all miss you at our many family functions. thank you for fighting for our freedoms. my dad and i have had many talks about you and i have prayed alot for you. william i love you and miss you a whole lot your cousin,"
jeffrey haley of danville, virginia

"Thank you so much for fighting for our country. May God bless you and be with your family during this troublesome time. I want your family to know my students in Altavista Middle School are honoring all the fallen heroes of Operation Iraqi Freedom. GOD BLESS!!!"
Jill Elliott of Altavista, VA USA

"thank you for fighting for our contry and all that you have did for us. I live very near you and i wish your family and friends luck to get through what they have to go through. Thank you and god bless you."
Regina of Va. USA

"Our prayers are with your family during this difficult time. Thank you William, for your courage and sacrifice. May God always keep you in His care."
Ken and Maritza Holley of Pembroke Pines, Florida

"To the family and friends of Maj. William Watkins III:
May God's grace be with you during your time of grief. Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you and we feel your loss and share in your sorrow. Bless William for the sacrifice he has made to make a better life for the rest of us."
The Ford Family of Wells, Nevada

"To the family and friends of Maj. William Watkins:
I am saddened by the loss of your loved one. He will always be remembered as a hero for fighting for freedom. I hope that this website will be a source of comfort and encouragement for you during this difficult time, and in the future as you recall the memories of William, who continues to live on in your heart."
Tim Rivera, of Powder Springs, Georgia

Honor them by remembering... Freedom - is their gift to us But his soul goes marching on