PHILOMATH, Ore. – It has been a heartbreaking few days for the Philomath community after learning one of its soldiers will not be returning home from Afghanistan.
The U.S. Military says on Sunday, Private First Class Cody Patterson and three other soldiers were killed in the Zhari district in Afghanistan when their unit was attacked with an improvised explosive device. The Department of Defense says Patterson was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Ga.
“It’s a shock,” said Philomath High School Assistant Principal Jon Bartlow. “It’s not something we’re ready to hear. You never are.”
The flags were flown at half-staff Tuesday at Philomath High School, where 24-year-old Patterson graduated six years ago. Bartlow says he knew Patterson well, especially since the 2007 graduate was so involved in school activities.
“He was just a fine young man,” he said. “Always respectful. This is so personal.”
Bartlow says Patterson was the football captain, and was crowned Mr. PHS his senior year during a pageant to raise money for Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.
“He’s the kind of person you’d be able to count on,” Bartlow said. “It’s just a poignant reminder that sometimes we live in a violent world. And this is a huge loss for our community.”
Bartlow says when he heard the news on Sunday, his heart dropped. He wanted to be in denial, but he says he had to accept the reality of Patterson’s death.
“We dutifully lower the flags whenever President Obama or Governor Kitzhaber ask in honor of fallen soldiers. But today it’s different. Today it’s one of our own.”
Bartlow says he remembers Patterson as a caring person, full of humor and leadership. As a senior, Patterson selected a quote by George Carlin to place underneath his picture: “There is no present: Only the immediate future and the recent past.”
“In keeping with his humor, he had a statement from a great philosopher of our day – George Carlin. Carlin was a comedian, but he was also a philosopher,” Bartlow said. “The quote he had under his senior picture was fitting, because he was just a humorous guy. He always had a smile. That’s what I remember about him.”
Patterson’s death was on Oct. 6, after the government shutdown, which could be a problem as his family makes funeral arrangements.
The National Military Family Association says when service members die during a shutdown, there is a lapse in funding, which means death benefits could be delayed. It also says family members can expect delays in expense coverage for funeral benefits or to travel for a dignified transfer ceremony. The association also says there is the risk of not having an immediate funeral if the family wants the burial at a national cemetery managed by Veterans’ Affairs.
KEZI 9 News reached out to members of Patterson’s family, who say they are mourning their loss. They say when they’re ready, they will make a statement.