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  • Press Release

Sheriff's Office Helps Fallen Soldier Make It Home

Since the February 16, 2023 positive identification of U.S. Marine, Lance Corporal Sean Willey and notification to his family in upstate New York, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office has been working to reunite Sean with his family. Veterans Administration Officials were initially consulted for assistance but were unable to provide any help with transportation or funeral expenses.

In the meantime, it was unknown if Sean’s family was going to be able to travel the approximate 900 miles to pick him up in Hayesville so the Clay County Sheriff’s Office began exploring alternative arrangements in anticipation of getting Sean home as quickly as possible.

The American Legion Post 532, Marine Corps League Detachment 783 and the Clay County Sheriff’s Office have teamed up to not only get LCpl Sean Willey home to his family but will be honoring his service to the country with an honor guard and flag folding ceremony. The ceremony will be held in front of the Clay County Sheriff’s Office on July 27, 2023 at 10:00 AM. Full military honors will be presented by the American Legion Honor Guard and correspondence from the family in New York will be read along with a eulogy and personal letter requested to be read at Sean’s funeral. A live feed broadcast of the ceremony will be broadcast on the Clay County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page for Sean’s family, friends and fellow Marines deployed and stationed elsewhere.

On July 28, 2023 at 9:00 AM, Sean will be escorted home by a motorcade made up of riders from the American Legion, Marine Corps League, Combat Veterans Association and Patriot Guard riders. Leaving from Hayesville, NC en route to Ilion, NY with planned tops being made in each state for motorcade participants and veteran organizations to pay their respects. Law enforcement escorts have been arranged through each jurisdiction from state line to state line.

Arrival in Ilion, NY is expected on July 29, 2023 at 6:30 PM where Sean will be received by an official honor guard and funeral detail made up of United States Marines assigned from Headquarters Marine Corps. They will receive LCpl Willey from the escorted motorcade and render the proper military honors to include the presentation of a folded flag to the family. The Marine Corps League Detachment # 227 and other veteran organizations in Sean’s hometown have been involved in the planning of this reception and are equally anxious to have him back home. Family and friends will be present to finally welcome Sean home for a long-awaited reunion.

All travel expenses have been paid by local Clay County veterans and charitable donations. A custom crematory vault bearing the Marine Corps Seal was crafted and donated by a member of the Marine Corps League Detachment 783 in Blairsville, GA. Additionally, a regulation foot locker was crafted for Sean’s personal property to be transported home in and serve as a legacy for Sean’s son one day. Contained in the property items is the dog tag worn by Sean which was located by one of the Cadaver K9s, Sean kept it laced in his boot as customary in the military for this very reason. Semper Fi Teufel Hunden!

Nine Line Apparel and Fight The War Within Foundation have paired up and graciously pledged their assistance with paying Sean’s funeral expenses. A commemorative shirt has been designed in honor of Sean’s service and dedication to helping others and supporting his fellow warriors by reminding all veterans that they are not alone. Scan the QR code seen here, and type FTWWSean in the search bar for more details and how to contribute to the same cause that Sean was led to support.

On behalf of everyone at the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, we send our deepest condolences to Sean’s family and friends. To the community in The Village of Ilion, New York, from all of us in Hayesville, Clay County North Carolina, we are humbled and honored that this responsibility has come to us and we will ensure every effort is made to return Sean home to you with dignity, respect and appreciation for his service and sacrifice to a grateful nation. May God’s love find you, comfort you and keep you.

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