From News Tribune reporter Steve Maynard:
The father and the wife of a Federal Way native killed in southern Afghanistan said Friday he realized his life was in danger.
Pfc. Dennis M. Williams, 24, was one of four Fort Lewis soldiers killed when a bomb detonated near their vehicle Tuesday.
“I lost a special son who knew he was in harm’s way,” Dan Williams said about his son.
Dan Williams and Maria Williams, the soldier’s wife, were in Delaware Friday to watch the arrival of the soldier’s casket at Dover Air Force Base.
“We feel like we just lost our whole world,” said Maria Williams, while boarding a plane to return to Seattle.
She said she talked with her husband a few days before he was killed.
“He told us he didn’t think he would make it back,” Maria Williams said. “He felt it was unsafe. … He just wanted to be home.”
The Federal Way couple has two children, an 18-month-old daughter, Alaina, and a 6-week-old son, Grant. Williams saw his son born a week before he left for Afghanistan.
Dan Williams said he watched four caskets containing the bodies of the soldiers carried off a plane Friday. But he couldn’t tell which one was his son.
“We lost four beautiful people,” the father said. “My loss is special to me.”
The father said his son saw an Army soldier killed three days earlier.
“I don’t know the full story,” Dan Williams said. “There was something wrong with that mission in terms of safety, in my opinion.”
The four soldiers killed were serving with 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, which is fighting the Taliban throughout southeastern Afghanistan.
The other three slain soldiers were:
— Capt. John L. Hallett III of California.
— Capt. Cory J. Jenkins of Arizona.
— Sgt. 1st Class Ronald W. Sawyer of Trenton, Mo.
The Department of Defense, which announced the deaths Thursday, has not released additional information about the attack.
The four were assigned to 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, the unit from which all six of the brigade’s fatalities have come. Two other soldiers from 1st Battalion were killed last week when a bomb exploded near their unit.
Williams joined the Army in October 2007 and reported to Fort Lewis on March 10, 2008. He was on his first deployment.
A teacher and neighbor remembered him Friday as a “sweet young man” with a quick sense of humor.
Pat Adkins, a physical education teacher at Federal Way High School, said Williams “always had a funny comeback to everything.”
She wants people to remember Williams for his “non-ending smile and his sense of humor.”
“He had a lot of friends because of that,” Adkins said. “Everybody loved Dennis.”
Adkins not only taught Williams, who graduated in 2003 from Federal Way High. She also lives next door to the Steel Lake-area home where Williams grew up, and where Dan Williams still lives. The parents are divorced; Williams’ mother lives in Buckley. Dennis Williams has one sibling, an older brother, David, Adkins said.
Williams, his wife and children lived in an apartment in Federal Way.
In high school, Adkins said, Williams loved to study auto repair and work on cars. After graduating, Williams worked in security and sales jobs, Adkins said.
“I loved him with my whole heart,” Adkins said. “It’s almost like a family member when they’re you’re neighbor.”