WOODBURY, Conn. -- From the time William Brennan was a boy, he wanted nothing more than to fly. He got his dream as pilot of an Army helicopter. He died in the cockpit, when his helicopter went down in a collision with another copter Saturday over Baghdad.
His brothers and sisters yesterday remembered Brennan as an outgoing, friendly, somewhat wacky guy who was proud of his Army service.
"He was very adamant that he was doing the right thing," said his sister-in-law, T. J. Brennan.
Brennan, 36, a chief warrant officer, was the youngest of seven children born to a Bethlehem, Conn., family that is well-known in the area for running the Curtis House, a Colonial-era inn and restaurant in Woodbury.
He leaves his wife, Kathy, with whom he served in the Army in Bosnia; and two daughters, Katelin, 4, and Cassidy, 2. They live in Hawaii, where Brennan was stationed.
Brennan was named after a cousin, who also was a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War. An uncle was a bomber pilot in World War II and Korea. His father, who was a commander in the Navy, died when Brennan was 3.
Brennan joined the National Guard and Reserves and applied to Army flight school. He almost never made it -- an Army bureaucrat spilled coffee on his first application and threw it away. Brennan studied various kinds of helicopters to figure out which ones he wanted to fly most, his sister-in-law recalled.
Yesterday, the US Defense Department said that Brennan's helicopter, a OH-58D, collided with another helicopter.
In letters e-mailed to his relatives, Brennan spoke about the daily goings-on of his service and the respect he felt for the Iraqi people, who he said had suffered under Saddam Hussein and were grateful for American aid.
"I say a hell of a lot of prayers before getting into the aircraft, and after getting down," he wrote in an Easter letter to his sister, Briana Wall. "It is not the fear of death that weighs me down, it is the feeling of not being there for my three girls. . . . There is a very real chance that something bad could happen and they would never know me," he wrote.