Soldier’s body returns home
RENO – They came to bring their brother home.
In the bitter cold Monday night on the tarmac of the Reno airport, dozens of law enforcement officers and servicemembers stood at attention to accept the flag-draped coffin of military police officer Pfc. Phillip Brandon Williams.
The 21-year-old Gardnerville native, killed by sniper fire Oct. 9 in Iraq, made his final trip home on a United Airlines flight that arrived in Reno just before 7 p.m.
Passengers aboard the plane and people in the terminal watched from windows. Brandon’s family huddled together holding each other out of cold and grief as an Army honor guard marched to collect the silver coffin.
Law enforcement officers from South Lake Tahoe, Carson City, Douglas County, the Nevada Highway Patrol, Washoe Tribe, and airport police stood at attention throughout the solemn ceremony, as did Brandon’s blood brother, Marine Lance Cpl. Justin Williams, 20.
The younger Williams, who is on a funeral honor guard in Washington D.C., was temporarily assigned to the Army to escort his brother’s casket to Reno.
“He wanted to do it,” said uncle Brian Williams, a sergeant with the Salt Lake Tahoe Police Department. “And the Marine Corps made it happen.”
Brian Williams, who has kept himself busy by being strong for his own brother – Brandon’s father, Brad – or making arrangements to bring his nephew home, found himself Monday quietly recognizing it was all too real.
“I’ve looked up to my brother my whole life. To see him sobbing over losing his first-born son,” he said before the words became caught in his throat. “He’s holding up because he’s being held up by our family and by the community.”
Two soldiers climbed into the aircraft’s cargo bay and delivered the coffin to a conveyor belt. Below, six others received the coffin and carried it to a waiting hearse. From there a procession of two limousines, eight motorcycle officers, 12 patrol vehicles and family in cars, began the journey to Gardnerville.
Despite the bitter cold all those officers volunteered their time, said Brian Williams.
“Brandon. What a source of pride. He has honored our family name, our nation and our American way of life,” he said. “Everyone recognizes this is an American loss not just a family loss.”
Brandon’s funeral will be at Douglas High School in Minden on Saturday, Oct. 21, at 11 am.