Fallen Hero SPC William J. Gilbert, United States Army

SPC William J. Gilbert

April 4, 1989 - May 14, 2013
U.S. Army

William Joseph Gilbert is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles, CA. At the funeral the honor guard fired a 21-gun salute, a bugler played taps, and 24 white homing doves were released, one for each year of his life.

Those who knew Willie said he didn’t really join the military to be a warrior, but to better himself and save up some money for further college studies. He wanted to go into engineering. But Army mates state that he was one top-notch soldier who also maintained a sense of humor, which helped during the tension of deployment. He was a big guy with a big heart and an engaging smile.

He was due in August to spend a week at home with his wife Monica who was expecting their first child very soon. He had planned to “be there” on Skype when the baby was born. But Willie was killed by an IED on May 14 while on foot patrol in Sanjaray, Afghanistan. That day took the lives of four of our U.S. soldiers. Monica Gilbert delivered their baby girl, Mikayla, seven days after Willie’s death. The baby attended the funeral in her mother’s arms.

In “discovering” Willie I found that he had many ‘loves’ in his life - his wife and other family members, many friends, USC, the Dodgers, sports, and writing. In high school he was a varsity baseball pitcher, and he also played football. More recently he had taken up writing and was starting a journal about Afghanistan kids, saying they are no different than American kids.

The motorcade to the cemetery stretched for a mile. He had asked, if anything happened, to be buried near his father, Glen, who died from cancer when Willie was 14. They are laid to rest just 50 feet apart. Monica states that Mikayla when she smiles has the same dimples as her father. I confess that when painting this portrait it took several tries to get those dimples just right. I wanted Mikayla to have a truly lifelike picture of her father.

Portrait sponsored in part by Willie’s buddies
- given to Willie’s wife, with reproductions being made for his mother Jodi, and his sister Jessie.
Second sponsor: Joe’s Auto Care, Rochester, MN