Published April 23, 2003
WASHINGTON – The second of two Air Force officers killed when their F-15 went down in Iraq was identified Wednesday as a 37-year-old Virginia man who leaves behind a pregnant wife and 11-month-old son.
Maj. William R. "Salty" Watkins III, 37, was the weapons system officer on the plane when it went down April 7 during a combat mission near Tikrit, north of Baghdad, the military said.
The Pentagon has not said whether the plane was shot down or was lost under other circumstances. The pilot of the F-15E was Capt. Eric B. Das, of Amarillo, Texas. His remains were identified last week.
Watkins' family was told the South Boston man was missing shortly after the crash. Military officials notified the family of his death on Tuesday, said Watkins' uncle, Tucker C. Watkins IV.
Watkins leaves a wife of five years, Maj. Melissa Watkins, an intelligence officer stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina, and his 11-month-old son, William. Melissa Watkins is expecting the couple's second child in August.
"Bill's legacy will continue in the lives of his two children as it will in the memories that each of us holds dear of this truly caring and loving man," the family said in a statement. "We have always been and will continue to be proud to have known him even for this very short time."
Watkins grew up in South Boston before attending Woodberry Forest School near Orange, where he played football and sang in the choir.
"He was a big fellow, but very artistic," said Edward Blain, who taught Watkins' senior English class. After joining the military, Watkins came back to school and helped student actors with a production.
"He showed us how to salute," said Blain, who directed the play.
Before serving in Iraq, Watkins was a Naval flight officer in the A-6E Intruder and F-14A Tomcat, according to the family. His Navy comrades called him "Salty," Tucker Watkins said, a nickname Watkins kept when he transferred in 2001 to the Air Force and assigned to the 333rd Fighter Squadron at Seymour Johnson.
Only one U.S. service member remains listed as missing from the war -- Army Sgt. Edward J. Anguiano, 24, of Brownsville, Texas, who disappeared after his convoy was ambushed March 23 in Iraq.