"Anyone would be proud to have him as a son. We were honored to have him as a part of our community."
Those words are part of the heartfelt sentiments voiced by Trinity Catholic High School Assistant Principal Diane Warzoha. On Wednesday, Warzoha talked about the loss of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Brian Bill, a 1997 graduate of the Stamford-based Catholic high school.
"Whenever you hear about something like this you think of the family, of the community," said Warzoha, a Greenwich resident. "Then you find out it was someone you had daily contact with."
That was the situation on Saturday when news bulletins interrupted a summer weekend - a US armed forces Chinook helicopter was shot down in Kabul, Afghanistan. All 37 American troops and commandos aboard were killed including the 31-year-old Bill, a Stamford native who achieved his lifelong dream of becoming a US Navy SEAL.
"He always wanted to be military. He always wanted to be a SEAL," recalled Warzoha, a former language teacher at Trinity. Bill was a student in her Spanish classes in the mid-1990s.
Bill enlisted in the US Navy in 2001 and had an illustrious career including being award three Bronze Stars, according to his obituary.
Now the Trinity's assistant principal, Warzoha said that whenever he could, Bill would return to the school campus on Newfield Avenue to visit friends and former teachers whenever he visited his hometown of Stamford.
"He was a very reflective young man. A very intense, sensitive person who cared about the people around him," she said.
So it doesn't come as a surprise that Bill's high school friends and former teachers established a tribute to him. A wreath of flowers in the green and yellow school colors, decorated with American flags, was placed outside the school - an effort organized by two close friends, Jonathan Scofield and Andrea Pavia Garrison, Warzoha said.
"He touched the lives of so many many people, they wanted a tangible place for people to come and pay respect," she said.
"Former students and friends have been stopping by. They have set up a Facebook page," Warzoha also said. "We've been getting calls from around the country. We are really touched by all of the sentiments. As a community we are so saddened by such a tragic end for a wonderful young man."
Indeed, he was popular and is being mourned by legions of friends and by people who never met Bill or his family. Nearly 4,000 people have registered on Bill's Facebook page - some recalling memories, others offering condolences and thanking him for his supreme sacrifice.
To pay tribute to Bill, a candlelight vigil is being planned for Saturday night (Aug. 13) to begin at dusk, according to Warzoha. She added, "His class is talking about a way to memorialize him on a long-term basis."
Warzoha said, "The way we look at it - when Brian entered Heaven, people there were saluting him."
(Funeral arrangements have not been finalized.)