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Catholic community mourns death of Connecticut Navy Seal
By Marianne Medlin
Boy Scouts at the vigil for Brian Bill. Credit: Diocese of Bridgeport
Boy Scouts at the vigil for Brian Bill. Credit: Diocese of Bridgeport

.- The Catholic community in Stamford, Connecticut is grieving the loss of 31 year-old Navy Seal Brian Bill, whose helicopter was gunned down in Afghanistan by the Taliban on Aug. 6.

“He was very committed to our Catholic faith” and “was devoted to the people he cared about – his family, his classmates and his country,” recalled assistant principal Diane Warzoha from Trinity Catholic High School. 

Bill was also a “reflective, quiet young man who was a very intense, sensitive person” and “always wanted to make a difference for others,” Warzoha told CNA in an Aug. 16 interview.

The Navy Seal was one of 38 people – including 25 American special operations personnel, five Army National Guard crewmen, seven Afghan commandos, and one Afghan interpreter – who lost their lives in the Chinook helicopter crash after Taliban members reportedly hit it with a rocket-propelled grenade.

Warzoha said that Bill, who graduated from Trinity Catholic in 1997, was “in several of my Spanish classes when I was a classroom teacher.”

“I will always remember his smile and the way he had the ability to 'read a situation,'” she said. “He knew what was going on around him and if someone was having a bad day, he wanted to be able to fix it.”

Despite Bill's impressive achievements throughout his life, he always maintained a sense of deep humility, Warzoha said.

“He was an Eagle Scout and I was invited to his Eagle Court of Honor – he was so proud of his accomplishment, but did not want the attention it brought him,” she remembered.

“Whatever he did, he wanted to do it the best that he could – be it on the ice as a part of our hockey team, in the classroom or in the community.”

The assistant principal said the local Catholic community has been hit hard by his death.

“We look to our Faith,” she said. “We continue to keep Brian, his family and those that were killed with him in our prayers.”

On Aug. 13, members the school's class of 1997 were joined by more than 200 friends and community members at a memorial led by Bishop William E. Lori of the Bridgeport diocese. The Stamford Navy Sea Cadets formed an honor guard and placed the American flag at half-mast in front of the high school building.
  
“Last weekend we woke in horror to the news,” said Bishop Lori, who visited with the family before coming to the vigil. The bishop noted that the Bill family was “united in grief with a strong and intrepid faith that sustains us all as we grieve.”

Trinity Catholic will dedicate the opening school Mass to Bill, who will also be remembered at the local Memorial Mass on Nov. 2 as well as at a Mass held by the Catholic Veteran's Group.

The school's sports teams will pay tribute to him by wearing a patch on their jerseys throughout the season.

Warzoha also said that school administration “will be meeting with Brian's classmates after the funeral takes place at the end of this week to plan a fitting, permanent memorial for him.”

“We are so very proud of Brian and are honored that he is a member of our school family,” she said.

“He truly is a hero in our eyes as well as the eyes of our country. We thank him for giving the ultimate sacrifice for us.”


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