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F-15 crewman's remains identified

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 24, 2003

ROANOKE, Va. -- 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.

The remains of the pilot, Capt. Eric B. Das of Amarillo, Texas, were identified last week.

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.

Before serving in Iraq, Watkins was a Naval flight officer in the A-6E Intruder and F-14A Tomcat.

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