Thursday, February 12, 2015
MEETING THE FAMILY OF BRIAN BILL, AMERICAN HERO
I never met Patricia Parry before Tuesday, but in a respectful and kind of spiritual way, I
felt a connection to her. She is the mother of one of my heroes, Brian Bill, a Navy SEAL
killed in action on August 6, 2011.
I never met Brian either, but I was fascinated by his journey to become one of the
toughest and most respected members of SEAL team 6. He loved his country,
fought for it, and made the ultimate sacrifice.
About the only things we really had in common was that we lived in Connecticut
at one time and our high schools were in the same athletic conference, separated
by six miles.
I was both saddened and inspired when I learned of his death. Bill squeezed more
out of his 31 years on this planet than most people can dream of doing in their lifetimes.
He was a mountaineer, earned his commercial pilots license, learned to speak Russian,
was a triathlete, and of course, a highly-decorated Navy SEAL.
When I saw pictures of Bill after his death, I couldn't help but notice his charisma
and just how full of life he really was. It just jumped off the screen at me.
I wrote articles about his courage, bravery, and service to our country. In a
half-Ironman event just a month after Bill's death, I competed in his honor. Through
the years, I'd hear from a few of his relatives and had a random meeting with
his aunt at a Masters swimming meet. It was a special moment talking with her
about Bill and how much he inspired me even though I never met him.
Bill was a true American hero, a warrior who went on at least nine deployments
to the Middle East, many of them for covert operations where it was never guaranteed
he'd make it back safely. A member of the elite SEAL team 6, he never divulged
information to his family, friends, or anyone else for that matter. Bill took his oath
seriously and never jeopardized the welfare of his teammates or security of their
missions. He had honor, respect, and a chest full of medals for valor and courage.
For the last several years, I've had thoughts of writing a book about his life. He is
more than deserving of it and his story really needs to be told. I really want to be
the one to make this happen so I contacted his mother to set up a meeting to discuss
We made plans to meet last Tuesday in Stamford, CT at a local restaurant. Through
my life in sports and career in television, I've met a lot of great athletes and celebrities.
The excitement and anxiousness of coming face-to-face with them wore off when I
was 13 when I had the chance to go into the clubhouse of the Los Angeles Dodgers
sit with them in the dugout, and go behind the cage and watch them take batting practice.
There was no bigger thrill than that.
The thrill and anxiousness came back when I was waiting to meet Patricia Parry,
the mother of Brian Bill, American hero. When she approached me at the table I
wanted to stand, give her a hug, and tell her how sorry I was for her loss. I didn't
think a hug was appropriate and from the articles I penned about her son, she knew
my thoughts about him.
Patricia is an extremely intelligent, thoughtful, and strong woman. Her left wrist
was covered in thin, black plastic bracelets with her son's name "Brian R. Bill" in
bright yellow lettering. There were a few other bracelets intertwined honoring
the entire Navy SEAL team.
She is a proud woman but looking through her eyes that were the window to her soul,
the pain of her son's death is still very much with her. I'm sure that while it may
subside, it will never completely go away and of course, that is understandable. To
have a son who was in his prime and filled with so much promise, to be taken away,
is beyond tragic.
Bill's younger sister, Amy, soon joined us. She had a mile-wide grin and
a mega-watt personality, which I imagine is a carbon copy of the one her older
brother and best friend had.
I wanted to discuss the potential for the book and hear more about Brian's life.
I was amazed to hear that Brian had plans of becoming an astronaut after completing
his service in the military. With his drive, determination, and passion to succeed,
I have little doubt Brian would've been walking in space some day.
"Brian always had these 'bucket lists' of things he wanted to accomplish," his
sister told me. "It didn't matter what it was, Brian always found a way to cross
things off his list."
He also never told his family anything about the missions he was on or where
he was going. "When he was home, Brian would always have a beeper on," his
mother said. "He had to make sure he was ready when called upon again. But he
never said anything to us about what he was doing and we got to the point where
we knew not to ask."
I heard what I had figured all along: Brian was completely dedicated to serving his
country. He was fiercely loyal to his SEAL teammates and was always there for
them and their families when they needed him.
"When Brian was in Iraq, one of best friends was killed in action and he told his
superiors that he had to go to his funeral," his sister said. "The officer told him he'd
have to do it at his own expense and he did. He had to book his own flight and
it made nine stop stops in all these different countries before landing in Texas.
He had to get to his best friend's funeral. He did and he stayed with his best friends
family for more than a week to make sure they were all right."
Brian's step father, Michael Parry, was the last to join the conversation. He's a
soft-spoken, kind man who was educated at Yale and is a doctor. Patricia, Amy,
and he are wonderful people. Down to earth, friendly, and impeccably dressed, they
are as close to perfect as perfect gets.
When it was time to go, I gave Brian's mother and sister a big hug. It was appropriate.
I want to write a book on Brian Bill's life story. It may take me two years, five
years, or even 10. But it's a book that deserves to be written.
Brian Bill lived a life of honor. It was an honor to meet his family and hopefully,
I can honor all of them by completing the book.