Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

State News

December 28, 2013

Body of Indiana soldier returns home to Elkhart

Body of Ind. soldier returns to Elkhart

ELKHART (AP) — More than 100 people, many of them Patriot Guard Riders, were on hand Friday as the body of Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Williams was returned to northern Indiana.

“Our hearts are busted in a million pieces,” his mother, Debbie Bussard Passerallo told The Elkhart Truth. “But we do believe [Williams] is part of God’s army right now.”

Williams and five other soldiers died when a Black Hawk UH-60 helicopter crashed on Dec. 17 in Afghanistan. His body was flown to the South Bend Regional Airport on Friday morning as family, friends and nearly 100 Patriot Guard Riders waited. The U.S. 20 Bypass was closed to traffic for 20 miles for the procession.

“Jesse is a proud son of Elkhart,” said U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, who was at the airport with Williams’ family. “Jesse volunteered — no one made him go, he volunteered to stand up and protect all of us — we owe a huge debt of gratitude to him.”

Passerallo asked that people sympathizing with her and other family members not forget about the soldiers still overseas.

Visitation for Williams is scheduled for 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at Granger Community Church in Mishawaka. The funeral will be 1 p.m. Friday at Granger Community Church. His body will be buried at Rice Cemetery in Elkhart.

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