Jax Beach lifeguards remember military hero who died in Iraq

Master Sgt. William Posch to be remembered next Tuesday at Patrick AFB

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – A military hero who died in Iraq is being remembered in Jacksonville and beyond for his selfless actions both before and after joining the Air Force.

Master Sgt. William Posch was one of seven airmen killed last Thursday when an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter went down in Iraq.

Last fall, Posch was videotaped as he rescued a child from floodwaters in the hours after Hurricane Harvey flooded Port Arthur, Texas. (Watch video)

Posch, who was assigned to 308th Rescue Squadron based at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, is a graduate of Fletcher High School and was a lifeguard at Jacksonville Beach before joining the service. Friends said Posch was and still is a huge motivating force for them to train harder every day.

Close friends said he was a morale booster, even stopping by when he was back in the area. Many lifeguards shared stories about him, saying his contributions were far greater than the time he spent here.

"We were lucky to have him here," said Capt. Rob Emahiser of Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue. "We were really, really lucky to know somebody that gave it everything all the time."

Many of the current lifeguards were were trained by Posch, who the recruits knew as Billy.

Emahiser said Posch helped make big changes among the lifeguards."He was able to inspire us to be right along with him," Emahiser said. "He made us all do better at whatwe do. Even though we thought we were doing a great job, and we were, but he would make us train harder. Make us do more."

On Sunday, current recruits and former lifeguards took part in a run from the lifeguard station to Jarboe Park. It’s a run Posch loved to do and this time they carried an American Flag. From now on, lifeguards will call the tradition the Bill Posch Run.

You could feel the love," lifeguard Kaitlin Whited said. "We stopped about every eight blocks and a retired member told their story of how they knew Posch or how he kicked their butt at one point of their career. Or how he just motivated them to be a better person."

Jacksonville Beach lifeguards after Posch Run.
Jacksonville Beach lifeguards after Posch Run.

"We want to carry on his tradition and his legacy around here because he did so much for us," lifeguard Gordon Vandusen said. "It’s just a small thing that we can do to ever repay him for the amount of things he’s done for us, for our country, for everybody."

After joining the Air Force, Posch moved with his wife and two children to Melbourne, near Patrick Air Force Base. 

"We are going to celebrate their legacy and give them the sendoff they deserve," said a Facebook post announcing the service. 

The Patrick AFB community has also set up a GoFundMe page for people who want to help the family financially.