A Green Country Vietnam veteran died last year, but he didn’t get his military burial until Saturday. The Army hero also got a special sendoff, as veterans released the former paratrooper’s ashes into the sky.
William James Stanley Jr.’s family said he wanted to soar in the sky again and have his “knees in the breeze” one last time. Thanks to his military brothers, the former paratrooper's final mission is now complete.
Stanley Jr. took a leap of faith when he enlisted in the Army, serving in Vietnam from 1967 through 1968, first as a paratrooper and later as a combat engineer. His friends said, like so many, the war made William weary, but when flying, he felt free.
"I never thought of himself as a hero, but he was,” U.S. Navy Veteran Bob Bale said. “Anybody who can go through Vietnam. He was a hero in my eyes. He saw a lot more than he ever told me."
Stanley Jr. was 70 when he died last June. His sister, Rita Cox, said it meant the world to have these men recognize her beloved brother.
Anthony Marquez was one of those men who took flight Saturday. Marquez is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. Marquez said he was honored to join the soldier on his final skydive.
"We are here to celebrate his life as being a veteran,” Cox said. “He had a fun life because he was a fun person.”
Friends and family watched as the ash dive commenced. All of them said Stanley Jr. was one of a kind.
Joann Reid is one of William’s daughters. She said he was a wonderful father figure and a great man of faith.
"He was just a character and a half,” Reid said. “Always making you laugh.”
William’s Pastors Brent and Shelley Crawford with Living Hope Fellowship described him as a man who loved to serve and help anyone in need.
"He was a prayer warrior, always did bible study and had a great since of humor," Shelley Crawford said.
Before Stanley Jr. died, his friend Rob Everhart with Skydive Airtight asked him if he would ever jump again.
“He said he kind of would like to, but he didn't think that he could,” Everhart said. “And I said, 'You never know. One day you might.’”
Everhart was right. Stanley Jr. tasted flight one final time. William's family said they were overwhelmed with gratitude.
They said this was the perfect way to finally send him off.