05/29/09 — 'Brady Bunch' star honors military

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'Brady Bunch' star honors military

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on May 29, 2009 1:46 PM

A younger Shirley Young often dreamed of staring her "first love" in the eyes.

But when Barry Williams, a.k.a. "Greg Brady," took to a stage in downtown Goldsboro Thursday evening to sing the national anthem, her mind was thousands of miles away -- in the desert with her son, James.

"He's in Iraq," she said, closing her eyes. "I pray for him every day."

Moments later, Ms. Young wiped a tear from her eyes.

That song always gets her, she said -- even more than the prospect of bragging to grade school friends about her childhood dream come true.

"He's wonderful -- still just as gorgeous as he was all those years ago on that TV," Ms. Young said. "But I have had a new love for 24 years. And my dream, now, is hugging his neck."

Hundreds packed the Waynesborough House parking lot Thursday for the military-appreciation installment of Center Street Jam.

Williams, best known for his role on the iconographic series "The Brady Bunch," was among them.

He called it "a great honor" to be a part of recognizing those local service members currently at war and the families they left behind.

After all, he has met many of them over the years during visits to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

"I'm meeting the families, I'm meeting the service (members), and I'm talking to the people who just returned or who are about to deploy, and it's very meaningful. It's very powerful," Williams said. "It's a tremendous privilege to be at an event like this and contribute to it."

The former child star is no stranger to the missions Seymour Johnson airmen execute in theater.

He has taken rides with both the 4th Fighter Wing and 916th Air Refueling Wing in their respective aircraft -- the F-15E Strike Eagle and KC-135R Stratotanker -- and is set to receive aviation jackets from both groups today.

"I have been honored by them and that's an honor," he said. "So singing the national anthem, it's in the spirit of giving back."

But his trip to Wayne County was not limited to an appearance and performance at downtown's summer concert series.

He also met with local law enforcement -- where another "thrill" was waiting.

Officials from the sheriff's office gave Williams a birds-eye view of the city he became an honorary citizen of during that concert.

And then, knowing he was only a few weeks away from receiving his pilot's license, they surprised him.

"Let me tell you, there was one thing I did not expect that beautifully capped my tour over Goldsboro," he said. "(The pilot) said, 'Barry, how about I land this thing and bring you up front and let you take us around the pattern a couple of times?'"

Just another one of the perks that comes with being "Greg Brady."

But Williams maintains perspective. He knows his stop in Goldsboro was about more than his celebrity.

It was about giving back to a town that has welcomed him as another son -- a town that wraps its arms around the fighting force of the nation he loves so well.

"I'm a very fortunate guy. I don't see a great disparity between the people I meet and who I am," he said. "In this country, to be, not just well-known, I'm branded ... it's a big plus. But to be able to treat it respectfully and to appreciate it, to be grateful for it ... has really contributed to my profound appreciation for who I get to meet and what I get to do now."