Elkhart soldier's body returned home

Jesse Williams
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The body of an Indiana Army soldier killed in a helicopter crash is now home in Indiana.

The body of Staff Sgt. Jesse Williams of Elkhart arrived at South Bend's Airport around 9:00 am Friday. Williams and five other soldiers died when a Black Hawk helicopter went down last week during a mission in Afghanistan.

Friends, family and complete strangers lined the streets to pay their respects as an honor guard escorted the body of Staff Sergeant Jesse Williams from the South Bend airport to a funeral home in his hometown of Elkhart.

"The ones that are closer to home always hit closer to home, and unfortunately, northern Indiana has been rocked by a lot of KIAs in the last several years," said Brett Tracy, Patriot Guard rider.

Cloaked in stars and stripes, SSG Williams' family and friends welcomed him back home.

"We feel for our son. We're so very proud of him. Our hearts are busted into a million pieces. We believe he's part of God's army now," said Debbie Passerallo, Williams' mother.

Sen. Joe Donnelly was among the crowd to represent not just Hoosiers, but all Americans.

"He's on the front line defending our country and making sure we have the freedoms we have," said Sen. Donnelly.

A procession of motorcycles and cars traveled from South Bend to Elkhart to give the community a chance to pay their respects.

"I agree people forget about them. They need to open up their eyes and realize they're fighting for us every single day," said Angela Felder, a family friend.

"He took to the challenge. He was great with the discipline. He built his body up until his commanding officer called him just a physical machine. He had a heart made of gold. He loved his girl. He loved his friends so much," said Passerallo.

"Once he is able to go to rest, we'll all still going to be there, family and friends, together and make sure we support the family," said Felder.

Visitation and funeral services will be next week.

- Story courtesy WNDU