Army Master Sgt. William L. Payne

Army Master Sgt. William L. Payne

Died May 16, 2003 serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom

46, of Otsego, Mich.; assigned to 2nd Battalion, 70th Armor Regiment, Fort Riley, Kan.; killed in an accidental ordnance explosion in Haswah, Iraq.

When a war in Iraq became likely, Master Sgt. William L. Payne put off his retirement because of a sense of duty to the men who served under him. Payne, who first joined the Army shortly after graduating from Otsego (Mich.) High School in 1975, was killed May 16 when ordnance exploded as he examined it. Payne would have had 25 years of military service in September, said his stepmother, Beverly Payne. He was preparing to retire, but decided to wait. “He felt that he should go over there with his men that he worked with so long,” she said. Payne was the oldest of four siblings, including a brother and two sisters, his stepmother said. He is also survived by his wife, Karin, whom he met in Germany; two sons, John, 21, and Nicholas, 14; and his father, William O. Payne. His mother, Rosemary, died in an automobile accident about 20 years ago. Payne had been stationed at Fort Riley, Kan., since 2001. He was also assigned there from 1995-98. Most recently, he was the intelligence noncommissioned officer in charge for the 2nd Battalion, 70th Armor Regiment of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division. He previously served as the first sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division. While in high school in Otsego, about 14 miles north of Kalamazoo, Payne wrestled and played football all four years, his stepmother said. After serving an initial hitch, he left the Army and returned to the Kalamazoo area for 18 months or two years before re-enlisting and becoming a career soldier.

Associated Press

Soldier pens musical tribute to friend killed in Iraq
FORT RILEY, Kan. — A song saluting U.S. military casualties in Iraq is gaining popularity in the Fort Riley area.
Sgt. Alton Miller wrote “The Man That Made the Medal” to honor his buddy at the northeast Kansas Army post.
Master Sgt. William Lee Payne, 46, of Michigan, was killed in the ground war last year. Miller, 35, says Payne was like a father to him. “He helped me out through some pretty rough times,” said Miller, who is assigned to the 1st Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment of the 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division.
Miller was preparing to ship out to Iraq when he received word that Payne was dead. He quickly wrote the song, which he sang at Payne’s funeral. “Ever since then I’ve sang it at memorials, when we were over in Iraq, for the fallen soldiers over there,” he said. “It’s taken off and it’s touched a lot of people’s lives.” Miller also performed at a recent Veterans and Military Appreciation Day dinner, attended by more than 600 people in Junction City. He received a standing ovation at the dinner, and again after singing the tribute at Junction City’s Veteran’s Day ceremony. Some area radio stations also have been playing Miller’s song. “There’s no song out there right now that actually tells you the loss and the story behind that,” Miller said. Miller, who plans to leave the Army at the end of 2005, said he is searching for a record label to pick up his song.
Associated Press

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