Major William R. Watkins III of Danville, VA, was killed in action April 7, 2003 when the F-15E he was in went down during a combat mission near Tikrit, Iraq. Watkins was assigned to the 333rd Fighter Squadron, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. He had transferred to the Air Force from the Navy two years prior to his death to be closer to his wife, Air Force Major Melissa Watkins. William “Salty” Watkins was a 1989 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, had served 12 years in the Navy as a flight officer, and was a big Jimmy Buffet fan.

He is survived by his wife and two children, one of whom was unborn at the time of his death, as well as his mother and two siblings.

“The average American will know him as a war hero,” said Watkins’ uncle, Jeff Haley, “For his family and friends, we knew him as a hero in other parts of his life: as a great dad, a family man, a brother, and a friend.”

The Travis Manion Foundation honored Major Watkins through the Character Does Matter program presented during the USNA’s Summer Seminar and USNA STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Camp for rising 11th graders.

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