Family and friends of a Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan earlier this month gathered Friday in Connecticut for his funeral, praising him for his courage and love of country.
Brian Bill was honored and remembered by hundreds during a service in his hometown of Stamford. The 31-year-old chief petty officer was one of 30 Americans and eight Afghans killed on Aug. 6 when the Taliban shot down their helicopter.
"Today we mourn the loss of our son, brother, friend, and hero," his mother, Patricia Parry, and stepfather, Michael Parry, said in a statement released to the news media that thanked family, friends, the community and Navy for the support they have received. "We also celebrate Brian's life and honor his courage and his service to our country. He died alongside his friends, his teammates, some of the bravest men this world has ever known."
Bill joined the Navy because he loved his country and its freedoms, his family said.
"He was incredibly brave and determined, with a fierce sense of humor and had amazing opportunities in life because of his strengths and talents," his parents said. "He was truly special, not only to our family, but to this country. Brian meant the world to us, and there will always be an emptiness in our hearts and souls."
Stamford firefighter Patrick Sasser, who attended Trinity Catholic High School with Bill, called him an "all-around stand-up guy" in an interview before the funeral. He said Bill, an Eagle Scout, was interested in the military in high school and talked about joining the Navy Seals.
"Anything he did he put 110 percent effort into it," Sasser said. "Things just came very natural to him. No fear."
Classmates held a candlelight vigil in Bill's honor. Flags were flown at half-staff in his memory in Connecticut and Vermont, where he graduated from Norwich University.