A former Juneau resident who died last week while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom was a much-loved and admired coach.
Leslie D. Williams was 36 years old when he died during a non-combat-related incident at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. Williams had been assigned to the 4th Maintenance Group at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina. A technical sergeant, he was deployed as part of the 4th Fighter Wing.
After leaving Juneau, Williams became well known for his commitment as an airman and his dedication to youth athletics in his new home in Goldsboro, N.C. A part of the Rosewood community, he was well-known as a coach for the Rosewood Little Eagles.
His role with the community went beyond authority figure; he was known for his strengths as a mentor and a friend. Outpourings of support and wishes emerged among his home community, where his name and face depicted integrity.
Parents of his team’s players expressed their feelings to his hometown’s newspaper, the Goldsboro News-Argus. He meant a lot to the youths and inspired them. In the small community, he was more than a grown-up face to them, he was someone they were used to seeing and looked up to. When Williams went to Afghanistan, his support and camaraderie continued through his Facebook page.
His assistant, Tech. Sgt. Kevin Getchell, told the News-Argus how his friend’s work with the children was an inspiration and how much the kids loved him.
“He’s very upset. He cried all night. At 9 years old, it’s hard to understand that Les isn’t coming back,” said Angie Lancaster, whose son, Trent, was one of his players. “I mean, it’s hard for me. Those boys, they loved him. They respected him. He was so special to them.”
Retired Master Sgt. Brian Volk told the paper he was as much of an inspiration to the others off the field, saying, “Les was one of those guys that made everyone around him a better person. He forever made a positive impact on everyone he touched.”
Details of his death have not been released. A news release from the Air Force only revealed Williams died in a shooting incident on Jan. 25.
“Today we lost a member of our family under unfortunate circumstances,” said Col. Todd Canterbury, vice commander of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing, in a release. “We share in the sorrow felt by his loved ones, and we must not forget the valuable contribution he made to his country and the impact he has left on our organization.”
The Air Force Office of Special Investigations and Army Criminal Investigation Command are investigating the incident.
His wife, Tonya, received a personal message from her overseas husband, during a special honor little league game just a few months ago.
It began, “To my loving wife Tonya. I may be thousands of miles apart in Afghanistan, but my heart is still in your hands.”
Williams is survived by his wife, sons Christian and Phoenix, mother Sue Ann Lindoff, five sisters, two brothers and numerous other relatives.
Burial services for Williams will be held in North Carolina at a date and time yet to be determined. A memorial service will be held in Juneau at a date and time to be determined.
The Empire extends special thanks to the Goldsboro News-Argus.
• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or firstname.lastname@example.org.