Memorial service set for Tuesday for Willie Browning, local veterans' advocate
By LYNETTE SOWELL
Willie Mae Browning, a retired veterans service officer, died in a traffic accident on Monday. She was driving westbound in her Honda on State Highway 9, when around 6:30 p.m. she apparently rolled through the stop sign at the intersection of Highway 9 and F.M. 116. Browning's vehicle was struck by a Ford F-250. The driver of the Ford was transported to a nearby hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
The official cause of the crash is not immediately known. However, Browning's daughter posted Wednesday morning on social media that it is believed her mother had “some sort of medical event and drove unprotected into an intersection of highways” and that the medical examiner performing the autopsy would have more information “pending investigation into her medications.”
Browning's loss is keenly felt not only by her family, but by Central Texas area veterans and beyond.
The lifetime member of Star Group – Veterans Helping Veterans volunteered as recently as Saturday during the group's annual Independence Day picnic at the Copperas Cove Civic Center.
Sheila Timmons with Star Group – Veterans Helping Veterans described it as “shock” which she and others felt at learning of Browning's death. Timmons said Browning's volunteering to help veterans began in a very personal way.
“She started helping other veterans because of the situation she found herself in as a widow,” Timmons said. “Her name is known well beyond Fort Hood.”
It is estimated that Browning has helped as many as 100,000 veterans during her time as a veterans service officer, working with veterans on their claims in the Copperas Cove, Fort Hood, Killeen and Harker Heights.
“They would line up around the building to get in to see her,” said Tony Smith, a fellow veterans service officer who operates out of Coryell County, but, like Browning, helps veterans throughout the Fort Hood area.
Veterans and their families have shared via social media about the impact Browning made on their lives, often helping them navigate the waters of dealing with the VA to obtain their deserved benefits. Browning would work, undaunted, on behalf of the veterans.
A former Army captain, she retired in May 2016 after 11 years volunteering as a veterans service officer, but made it clear that her work wasn't really done.
“She said even though she was retiring, it didn't mean she would retire from (Star Group – Veterans Helping Veterans),” Timmons said.
Services for Browning are set for Tuesday, July 5 at First Baptist Church in Killeen, located at 3310 S. WS Young Dr. Visitation will be from 9-11 a.m., immediately followed by a memorial service. The funeral procession will begin at 12:30 p.m. to the Central Texas Veterans Ceremony on Highway 195 south of Killeen, with a graveside service set for 1 p.m.
All veterans organizations are invited to bring their wreaths and/or flags, with the Patriot Guard set to escort Browning to the cemetery.
A reception is scheduled to take place at the church following the ceremony at the cemetery, with food donations and volunteers welcome. Those who would like to volunteer should contact Melanie Wood with First Baptist Church of Killeen at (254) 634-6262.