HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ From his days as a student athlete at a Stamford high school, Brian Bill was clear on his career goal: He wanted to join the elite Navy SEALs.

Bill, who was among the SEALs killed in a weekend helicopter crash in Afghanistan, was remembered Monday by friends and teachers as a dedicated young man who wanted to be the best at anything he pursued.

“He set his standards high. He was that kind of person,” said Kimberly Hess, a friend who graduated from Norwich University in Vermont with him in 2001. “He was remarkably gifted and very thoughtful. There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for you no matter the time or day.”

His family said he wanted to return to graduate school after completing his military service and hoped to become an astronaut. He was also a mountaineer, a skier, a pilot and triathlete.

“We are heartbroken in our loss,” his family said in a statement. “Brian was a remarkably gifted, thoughtful, and compassionate young man. We are incredibly proud of him. He was a treasured son, grandson, brother, uncle and cousin. He loved life; he loved a challenge; and he was passionate about being a SEAL.”

“We thank all the SEALS who gave their lives this week and share our sorrow with the families of those dedicated men who fought for our safety and freedom,” Bill’s mother and stepfather, Patricia and Michael Parry, and his father, Scott Bill, said in the statement.

The 30 U.S. troops and eight Afghans who died in Saturday’s crash of the Chinook helicopter were on a mission targeting a Taliban leader when an insurgent with a rocket-propelled grenade reportedly fired on the chopper and shot it down, officials said Monday. It was deadliest single loss for U.S. forces in the decade-long war.

The helicopter was transporting the troops to an ongoing battle early Saturday between coalition forces and insurgents in eastern Wardak province, NATO said in a statement.

Hess said Bill had been decorated many times for valor on deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

“His death is tragic and it’s really fitting that he was going to help others,” she said.

Diane Warzoha, who had Bill as a student in a language class at Trinity Catholic High School in Stamford, said he was in many ways a typical high school student who played hockey and soccer, but it was no surprise that he fulfilled his goal of joining the SEALs.

“Brian just wanted to do his best, to protect other people. Brian wanted to be the best at whatever he did. Challenge did not deter him ever,” said Warzoha, an assistant principal at the school.

“We’re deeply, deeply saddened. Our hearts and prayers go out to his family. It’s just so sad,” she said.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)


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