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Cpl Stephen R. Wills, YT-14, has flown west

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  • Cpl Stephen R. Wills, YT-14, has flown west

    KALISPELL – Stephen Ronnie Wills, 65, passed away Tuesday, March 14, 2017, at his home in Kalispell, after a courageous battle with multiple medical conditions.

    He was born March 14, 1952, in Missoula to Robert and Vera Wills. He attended Sentinel High School. He had a love for the great outdoors which he enjoyed with his horse Chad camping and riding through the Sapphire Mountains. He was dedicated to the Boy Scout’s earning almost every badge possible. Following in his father’s footsteps Steve’s loyalty, pride and love for his country led him to the Marine Corp in 1970.

    On April 29, 1975, Cpl. Stephen R. Wills a helicopter mechanic and crew chief was a victim of a tragic accident. According to an article written, ‘Helo’ Marine Awarded Medal, Cpl. Wills stated, the CH-46 Sea Knight aircraft (Call Sign YT-14) was on final approach to the U.S.S. Hancock and was waived off. The helicopter crew had been flying for almost 14 hours on “search and rescue” detail at this point when the pilot lost his bearings causing the CH-46 Sea Knight to crash into the sea. Cpl. Wills and the first mechanic were the only survivors of the crash. They spent approximately 48 minutes in the water prior to their rescue. Steve sustained broken legs and hip in the accident and spent five months in the hospital. The CH-46 Sea Knight was the last helicopter lost in Vietnam and Cpl. Steve Wills was one of the last two American’s wounded in Vietnam. Cpl. Wills was awarded a single-mission Air Medal for the actions he took earlier that day during Operation "Frequent Wind.”

    Steve returned home to Montana where he worked for the Forest Service, drove truck and worked in sales management. He loved all that Montana offered, an avid hunter and fisherman he spent years enjoying the treasure state. A rugged cowboy by nature he took after the old “Duke”. Steve loved to take drives and knew every road, river, lake and stream. If you were one of the fortunate ones to ride with him you were guaranteed an adventure filled with captivating stories.

    Steve had a quiet intelligence, a quick witty humor, he was very generous, and exceptional master grill man and chef. Steve would help anyone the best he could, but he never had much himself. Steve would be the first one there if needed. According to his younger brother the best story about Steve was that everything was bigger than life itself.

    Steve's loyalty embraced every fiber of his entire heart and soul for the Marines. In his final years his greatest mission was devoted to Yankee Tango 14 (YT-14). There was not a day that went by in the past 42 years that Steve did not think about the fateful night April 29, 1975. He was passionate about the retrieval of his fallen brothers left behind in Vietnam and the retrieval of YT-14 that still sits at the bottom of the South China Sea; he hoped to see that mission completed before he was called up to his final mission in heaven. His pilot and co-pilot are commemorated on a retired CH-46 Helicopter in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum slated to be added to the National Museum of the Marine Corps in the coming years.

    Whether you were his spouse, child, grandchild, great grandchild, sibling, friend or family member the ones that knew him and loved him most thought of Steve as a National Treasure. Semper Fi.

    Steve is preceded in death by his parents Robert and Vera Wills. He is survived by his spouse Kathy Skillestad of Kalispell, his children Shannon Zimmerman of Missoula, Shane Wills (Heather) of Wasilla, Alaska, Stephen Wills Jr (Alicia) of Minnesota, Brandon Wills of Hawaii and Mardana Wills of Minnesota, several grandchildren, one great grandchild, several nieces and nephews and his siblings Robert Wills (Carlotta) of Missoula and Randy Wills (Lisa) of Florence.

    The family would like to give a special thanks to Kathy who dedicated her every being for caring for Steve in his final years. Her devotion and love to Steve’s care will always be forever in our hearts. We also would like to thank Kristi, Laurie and Ryan Waldo for the love and support they gave to Steve during his last years with us.

    A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday, April 6, at Johnson-Gloschat Funeral Home with a celebration of life following at the VFW in Kalispell. In Steve’s honor, “come as you are.” In lieu of flowers the family suggests donations to Steve’s greatest Mission Yankee Tango 14 (YT-14) Yankee Tango 14 Recovery Project 12725 East Poinsettia Scottsdale, AZ 85259
    Alan H. Barbour, Historian
    USMC Combat Helicopter Assoc
    "Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brothers Forever"

  • #2
    God Blessed this United States Marine. Rest in Peace Corporal Steven Wills. Semper Fidelis
    Last edited by cwoods; 03-28-2017, 20:19.
    Semper FI,
    Chris Woods


    • #3
      TAPS RIP Brother
      Semper Fi


      • #4
        RIP Steve, keep 'em flyin' 'til we get there, Nothing but new "E" models I hear....
        Semper Fidelis
        Semper Fidelis

        Phu Bai tower:
        YW-11 for Phu Bai DASC-
        Remember, These are "A" models!
        YW-11 BuNo-151939
        '65 Model CH-46A