Family mourns Elkhart soldier killed in Afghanistan


An Elkhart family on Wednesday learned the awful news that their son, father, friend was one of six American soldiers killed Tuesday when a military helicopter crashed in Afghanistan.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Williams' mother, Debbie Passerallo, confirmed to WSBT a chaplain and Army representative knocked on her door at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday with the news of her son's death.

U.S. defense officials say another person who was on board the Black Hawk helicopter was injured and survived. Initial reports said the chopper had mechanical problems and that the crew came under fire after the crash.

Williams graduated from Elkhart Central High School in 2003.

"As a mother, you're never prepared for this," said Passerallo. "You always know the possibility is there, but you just think, 'This can't happen to my son. This can't happen to my kid.' This deployment was different, and he knew it. The goodbye was longer, a little more intense. The tears were there. They weren't there on the other deployments."

Williams has a 6-year-old daughter, Madison, Passerallo said. He last saw her on Father's Day at South Bend Regional Airport when he left for his deployment.

"She knows but I don't think she really knows what it means," Passerallo told WSBT. "He lived for Madison. She was his little princess and she knew it."

"He left a beautiful daughter behind," said Felix Rodriguez. "I know that was his heart and soul. Everything he did was for her and her future so, you know, it's sad."

Rodriguez said Williams was the kind of man who would "give the shirt off his back for you."

"He was an outstanding guy," Rodriquez said. "...good guy, went to fight for our country and gave his life doing what he loved best."

The family tells WSBT Sgt. Williams' body will be brought to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware Thursday evening. The family will be there for that.

There's no word yet when the funeral will be held.

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