"I'm not angry because it was his time to go. But I'm still hurt. He was like my sunshine. He was my ray of hope and he was taken too suddenly." That from Caitlin Anderson, widow of 20 year old PFC Billy Anderson. Both she and Billy's mother, Marlene Goodwin sat down with members of the Nashville television media and WJLE Sunday afternoon at DeKalb Funeral Chapel to reflect on the life of husband and son.
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Caitlin Anderson, who is also 20 years old, says she will probably never get over the pain of losing her husband this way, but the loss is very unfair to her almost nine month old daughter, Lilly Grace, who will grow up without him. "It's very unfair. It's unfair to me to miss out on my best friend and the chapters of our life. It's mainly unfair to my daughter who is going to grow up without him physically being here. I'm not angry because it was his time to go. He was called and he knew from the very beginning what he was doing. Like I said, being a military family, that is something you are faced with. The thought of death. You always know that risk whenever you tell them bye for their tour, you know that could be the last time you tell them bye. Unfortunately, that's just part of the job. I believe he had accepted that."
Caitlin says her husband was a kind, good hearted man. " He (Billy) was such an amazing man. He was an amazing soldier. He was very strong but the other side of the soldier was someone who was so intelligent and musically inclined and so loving and nurturing and he was a strong Christian person. He was the kind of person that you could be having the worst day in the world, everything could have happened wrong and he could just tell you something silly or just tell the funniest joke or make an odd face and you'd just feel better. He could walk in a room and you'd feel warm. He was just a wonderful person."
When asked about how Billy might have reacted to the way the community turned out for him Sunday, Caitlin said he would have loved it. "He wanted to be recognized, not in a selfish sense or self centered way, but he wanted people to know that there is just cause out there. It's not just soldiers being bad. He did like the admiration."
Caitlin says she and Billy became friends in high school but didn't develop a romantic relationship until after their high school years. She says they became reaquainted at a party. They were married in June 2009.
Billy was unable to obtain leave to get home for the birth of his daughter. In fact Lilly Grace was already about two and a half months old before he got to spend time with her. It was on the occasion of his graduation from basic training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where Caitlin, the baby, and other family members went to visit him.
Caitlin recalled the last time she spoke with Billy. "He called me the night that it happened. It was probably about seven hours before at around 10 p.m. Sunday night. He said he was not going to be able to get on the Internet for a while but that he was going to try to keep his phone charged. He didn't know if he was going to have electricity where he was going. He said his phone was dying and he had to hurry up but before the phone cut off he told me that he loved me and that he loved Lilly and said to kiss Lilly for him."
Goodwin told reporters that she feared for her son's safety in the Army and didn't want him to enlist, although she respected his decision to serve his country. "I did not want him to go into the service. It's not that I'm not patriotic. It's just from a mother's standpoint because I was afraid for him. Not that he (Billy) is any better than any of those soldiers over there. He's not. My heart goes out to every person that has someone over there. My heart breaks for them because this is my worst fear and it's come home."
Goodwin said her son was a Christian and while she was at first angry with God, she prayed for forgiveness, knowing she will see Billy again in heaven someday. She added that Billy was a good son and father and he loved his family." My son is the kind of son any mother would hope for. He was the sweetest boy. He was a good father. He could not hardly wait to get home to his family. That's all he talked about."
While she is no longer angry with God, Goodwin remains unhappy with segments of the Army. "As far as being angry at the Army, I'm not angry at any soldier. I love everyone of them. But as far as being angry at recruiters, they lied to my son and that hurt me. I won't say all recruiters, but I didn't like my son being lied to. I didn't like the fact that they lied to me too. They told my son that he could come home whenever his baby was born. Billy would have never left Caitlin if he had known that whenever the baby was born that he could not come home. It's a shame that these recruiters are allowed to go into these schools and promise these young boys money. A lot of them don't have scholarships and they come from families like ours that don't have a lot of money. They promise them college and money. I don't mean to put down the Army. I'm just saying there's always a few bad apples in the bunch. It's probably not even the recruiters, it's the ones who are telling them what they've got to do to get these young people to enlist. That makes me mad. That is wrong."
The U.S. Department of Defense issued a brief press release on Friday concerning the death of PFC Anderson.
According to the DOD, PFC Anderson, who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, died May 17, in Badghis province Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with improvised explosive devices.
He was assigned to the 508th Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The funeral for PFC Anderson will be Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. at the New Life United Pentecostal Church. Michael Hale and Bobby Thomason will officiate and burial will be in the Dismal Cemetery. Visitation will be Monday from 10:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. at DeKalb Funeral Chapel. Visitation Tuesday will be from 10:00 a.m. until the time of the service at the church.
Anderson enlisted in the U.S. Army on June 26th, 2009 and was deployed to Afghanistan on January 13th, 2010. Anderson was due to return home in July.
Several awards have been bestowed upon PFC Anderson including the Bronze Star Medal, posthumous; the Purple Heart Medal, posthumous; Army Commendation Medal; Army Good Conduct Medal, posthumous; National Defense Service Medal; Afghanistan Campaign Medal with a Bronze Service Star; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Army Service Medal; Overseas Service Ribbon; NATO Medal, posthumous; Combat Action Badge; posthumous; Parachutist Badge, basic; Weapons Qualifications Badge; and Overseas Service Bar.
Anderson was a member of the Covenant Baptist Church.
He was preceded in death by his father, Steve Goodwin; his maternal grandparents, Edwin "Cruse" and Connie Inez Lattimore Wheeler; and his paternal grandfather, Walter L. Goodwin.
Anderson is survived by his wife, Caitlin Anderson of Smithville. A daughter, Lilly Grace Anderson of Smithville. His mother, Marlene Goodwin of Alexandria. His paternal grandmother, Louise Goodwin of Liberty. One sister, April and her husband Chad Walker of Alexandria. Two brothers, Bobby Joe and wife Tabitha Anderson and John and wife Claire all of Smithville. Special nieces and nephews, Thea, Hunter, Nik, Macy, and Summer. His father-in-law and mother-in-law, Jimmy and Gina Lewis of Smithville. A sister-in-law, Chelsie Lewis of Smithville. A host of aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends also survive.
DeKalb Funeral Chapel is in charge of the arrangements.