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A Widow’s Story

On March 29, 2003, former Schofield Barracks soldier Sgt. Eugene Williams was killed by a suicide bomber near Najaf, Iraq.


He was 24. Williams is one of at least 47 service members with Hawai'i ties killed in the Middle East since the Iraqi War in March 2003. Originally from Highland, N.Y., Williams was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division in Fort Stewart, Ga. His 25-year-old wife, Brandi Williams, was left to care for their 3-year-old daughter, Mya, and their second child, Monica, who was born three months after Williams' death. Brandi, a 1995 graduate of Sacred Hearts Academy, and her two daughters now live with her parents in Waipahu. More than a year and a half after her husband's death, Brandi tells her story:

I got the news on a Saturday. After that, it was a complete blur. I remember going home. I think there were two military officials there. They asked me if I was Sgt. Eugene Williams' wife, and they told me what happened. This is what my mom tells me, because I don't remember. I was so distraught. I don't remember who came over the next couple days. I don't remember making any decisions for his funeral. I remember parts of the burial-the gunshots, the 21-gun salute, "Taps." That's about it.

Photos: Rae Huo

Mya was only 3. I don't think she really understood what was going on, but after things happened, she got so clingy. I couldn't go to the bathroom without her screaming.

I got a total of six letters after he died. The mail takes forever over there. The first letter was dated March 18, all the way to March 28, the day before he died. That came in late April. I got his stuff back from Iraq. He had kept all the letters we sent him, even the pictures Mya drew for him, in a Ziploc bag.

One day, maybe when Mya's a little bit older, we can go through his things together. He really loved Mya. I was really lucky that she remembers a lot about him. We took her to Disneyworld for her birthday in December. That's her last memory of him.

Last February, I went back to Georgia to visit the friends from the company he was with. They laid out everything about the actual situation. They were at a checkpoint when everything happened. Three others died with him. The blast was so big that it was over quickly, within seconds. That was part of my fear. I didn't want him to have suffered.

I can't explain how much my family has helped me. We live with my mom and dad. My goal is to be out on my own, but how everything is going right now, I don't know if I really want to do that. The kids love my dad. He's their fatherly figure.

A lot of people tell me I'm strong. I'm getting there. At first, I was crying all the time. I would hide from Mya, go upstairs, close the door. She would know when I came out, because my eyes were all puffy.

About six months ago, Mya brought me a box of Kleenex, and she said, "Mommy, I want you to stop crying now." That was my wake-up call. I realized I don't want her to feel like she has to take care of me. I'm there to take care of her.

I don't want to say it's easier. It still hurts, but it hurts less. People ask me how I do it. I do it for my girls. They don't have their father, and I want to give them all the love for both of us.

-As told to Ronna Bolante

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Honolulu Magazine February 2018
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