On April 8, 2007, Staff Sgt. Jesse L. Williams, 25, of Santa Rosa, CA, died in Balad, Iraq, of wounds suffered from small arms fire while conducting combat operations in Baqubah, Iraq. Williams was assigned to the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), Fort Lewis, WA.
Jesse’s military awards include 2 Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and 3 Army Commendation Medals. Jesse is survived by his wife Sonya, his daughter Amaya, his parents Herb Williams and Janyce Leone and his siblings, Sean Williams, Patty Blaylock, Wendy Radwan and Wade Mabery.
Born in Billings, Montana on June 9, 1981 to parents Herb and Janyce, Jesse began his life as an active boy. Ever full of energy, he found an outlet for it in sports and other outdoor activities. Although his energy level made it hard for him to sit still in the classroom, he had a thirst for knowledge, even going so far as to convince his teacher to send him back to the first grade because he felt he hadn’t learned his phonics well enough to move on to the second grade.
Jesse attended Santa Rosa High in California and excelled in rugby. He also followed through with another tough challenge by earning his Eagle Scout Badge. Becoming an Eagle Scout is an endeavor that most Boy Scouts start in their pre-teen years. Jesse began working for it at age 16, and achieved his goal with only a few hours to spare on his eighteenth birthday. Part of his Eagle Scout project was to help clean up and preserve the rural cemetery at Santa Rosa Memorial Park – where he is now buried.
After high school, Jesse decided to join the Army in March 2002, an enlistment that was motivated by a visit to ground zero following the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. It is no surprise that he chose infantry, and was later chosen to be in the elite Scout platoon in his unit. As he did in every aspect of his life, Jesse brought humor and fun, along with dedication and hard work to his army career. He bravely completed his first tour in Iraq, coming home with several awards including a Purple Heart. It was during his R&R leave from his first deployment that he met his future wife Sonya, also from Santa Rosa. After he returned to Iraq to finish his deployment he spent months communicating by email along with phone calls and regularly expressed his deepest desire to start a family. Jesse and Sonya got married in January of 2005 just two months after Jesse came home from Iraq in November 2004.
Amaya was born May 22, 2006 only five weeks before Jesse embarked on his second tour in Iraq. When Amaya was three weeks old, Jesse had her tiny handprints tattooed over his heart. He felt that by doing so, she would always be with him. He spent those five short weeks spending every minute he could cuddling her, showing her off, and happily changing her diaper. He made it his mission to soak up every minute with her that he could. He was able to spend two weeks with her on his R&R leave in December 2006, which would mark the last days that Jesse and Amaya spent together.
Amaya turned 4 on May 22, 2010 and everyone who is a part of Amaya’s life today and knew Jesse can see that he passed on to her some of his traits. Most noticeably, Amaya has his energy level and ability to laugh. She takes gymnastics class and is involved in youth soccer. She also has developed a keen interest in the military, always saying she’s going to join the Air Force so that she can be a pilot of a C-17. When you ask Amaya where her daddy Jesse is, her answer is always the same…..heaven.
Jesse lived life to its fullest until the very end and is remembered as a loving father, a devoted husband, a loyal son, a spirited brother and a most trustworthy friend. He was the guy that was never in a bad mood and made you laugh and smile even when things went wrong. One of Jesse’s greatest legacies is his free spirit and appropriately his favorite song was Three Little Birds, by Bob Marley. The lyrics teach us what Jesse did to “don’t worry about a thing, cause every little thing is going to be alright”.
We all love you Jesse and you will never be forgotten.