'Bright, brave faces' paid tribute on state's Wall of Honor
HARTFORD -- In a solemn ceremony attended by hundreds of family, friends and service personnel, pictures of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Brian R. Bill, of Stamford, and a half-dozen other slain warriors were added Thursday to the state's Wall of Honor.
Dr. Michael Parry, of Stamford, Bill's stepfather, told about 300 people gathered for the sixth annual ceremony honoring the dead of Iraq and Afghanistan that the Trinity Catholic High School graduate was an active, accomplished outdoorsman whose determination thrust him into the most elite ranks of the Navy before his death last year in a helicopter crash at age 31.
"We're grateful for his love, for his strength, for his sense of humor and for the sacrifice that he made for all of us," Parry said in the atrium of the Legislative Office Building. "But our pain is deep for our loss and for the loss of all those who are also remembered today."
An Eagle Scout, mountain climber, commercial pilot and piano player with a flair for languages, Bill, who earned multiple combat decorations before his death last August in Afghanistan, confounded Parry and Bill's mother, Patricia, by programming the GPS in his private vehicle to announce directions in French.
After earning an electrical-engineering degree at Norwich University in Vermont, Bill joined the Navy to pursue a childhood dream to become a SEAL.
"Over the next nine years and eight deployments, he rose to become the best of the best," Parry said. "Brian was our son, he was our brother, and he was our friend, and he was everyone's hero."
Bill's father, Scott Bill, resides in Sarasota, Fla.
Others honored with their pictures on the south wall of the concourse include: Army Spec. Philip C.S. Schiller, 21, of Winsted; Army Spec. Richard C. Emmons, 22, of North Granby; Army Pfc. Eric D. Soufrine, 20, of Woodbridge; Army Sgt. Edward J. Frank II, 26, of Hartford; Army Staff Sgt. Ari R. Cullers, 28, of Waterford; and Army Spec. Dennis Pratt, 34, of Southington.
The 90-minute ceremony was led by Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, who said that the 63 "bright, brave faces" on the wall will remain there forever for visitors to see and remember.
"We are honored and humbled to share this day with you," Wyman said. "They gave up their lives for us, and there are no words that can truly do justice to that sacrifice. And though the pictures are silent, I have no doubt that when you look at them, you hear the voices of your loved ones."
This year about 700 Connecticut National Guard troops are scheduled to be deployed in Afghanistan.