Army Spc. William L. Bailey III
May 25, 2007
29, of Bellevue, Neb.; assigned to the 755th Chemical Reconnaissance/Decontamination Company, Nebraska Army National Guard, O’Neill, Neb.; died May 25 in Taji, Iraq, of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle.
Related Line of Duty Death to the 755th:
Army Sgt. Jacob S. Schmuecker
The Associated Press
BELLEVUE, Neb. Hundreds of mourners passed beneath a giant American flag, suspended high in the sky by two Bellevue Volunteer Fire Department ladder trucks, as they arrived to pay their respects to a fallen soldier and firefighter.
More flags graced the lawn and the walkway leading to the Bellevue Christian Center, where Nebraska Army National Guard Spc. William “Bill” Bailey III’s flag-draped coffin rested Tuesday morning.
“He loved being a fireman. He loved being a father and husband. He loved being a soldier,” said Bill’s friend and fellow firefighter Gregg McElwain, his voice cracking with emotion. “I loved Bill for being my friend.”
Bailey, 29, of Bellevue, was providing security for military convoys with the 755th Chemical Company near Taji when an explosive device struck his vehicle. He was killed and three other Nebraska soldiers were hurt in the May 25 incident.
McElwain said Bailey died saving the lives of two other soldiers.
“Those who know him well know this was nothing out of the ordinary,” he said during the 90-minute service attended by Bailey’s family and friends, soldiers and firefighters.
Bailey was posthumously honored Tuesday with the Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, among other awards.
Giving an impromptu speech during the service, Gov. Dave Heineman called him an American hero.
Others remembered Bailey as a family man he leaves behind a wife, Deanna, and five children a firefighter and an avid hunter.
A slideshow featuring photos of Bailey and his dog tags was shown on the wall facing the crowd. Red and white flower arrangements and a photo of Bailey in his firefighter dress uniform adorned the stage near his coffin.
Following the service, members of the Army National Guard wheeled Bailey’s casket outside and into the back of Bellevue fire engine No. 72.
With another engine bearing Bailey’s firefighter uniform leading the way, a procession of fire and rescue vehicles from Bellevue, Nebraska City, Kearney, Arlington, Ponca Hills and elsewhere escorted his body to Bellevue Cemetery.
There, 21 shots rang out as full military honors were conducted. A bugler played taps.
The fire department bestowed its traditional bell-ring tribute and radioed to emergency channels the news of Bailey’s death.
“Bill Bailey’s assignment is completed. He’s returned to quarters,” said a woman speaking over the radio and broadcast graveside.
Bailey’s body arrived in Nebraska on Saturday. Honors were rendered at Offutt Air Force Base, followed by a procession to the Bellevue fire department, where Bailey had been a member for the past five years.
Bailey’s family did not speak during Tuesday’s services. They have referred questions to the fire department.
Department spokesman Dave Szymanski has said Bailey had been in Iraq since November and was to return home for a two-week leave this month.
Since Bailey’s death, Chief Warrant Officer Chris Allgaier, a 1991 graduate of Omaha Creighton Prep High School and a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. Their deaths bring the number of U.S. soldiers with Nebraska connections killed in combat to 47.
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