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Mooseheart NJROTC Welcomes Fallen Soldier Home

By JENETTE STURGES and ERIKA WURST / The Beacon-News, Aurora, IL

MOOSEHEART, IL, Jan. 18 -- Red and blue lights lit up the night sky on Wednesday as the procession for fallen soldier Christopher Patterson passed through Aurora.

In a black hearse, the body of 20-year-old Patterson was brought home, and there were dozens of residents waiting to honor his arrival.

On Route 31, at the entrance of the Mooseheart campus, 17-year-old NJROTC member Yolanda Linneman stood at attention as she watched the stream of cars, motorcycles and fire engines pass the school on the way to Moss Family Funeral home.

The cold wind stung her face, but the discomfort was a small price to pay to honor the sacrifice of the young soldier.

"I think that this gives us a chance to reflect and to see what the soldiers go through," she said. "The least we can do is come show our respect."

Mooseheart Executive Director Scott Hart said the students of the community's NJROTC program wanted to honor Patterson when they found out about the procession.

"It's such a small thing, but our kids here, many of them have been through a lot and they really feel when other people are hurting," said Hart. "They believe in honoring those who have given the supreme sacrifice."

Patterson, of North Aurora, died Jan. 6 when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device while he was serving as a specialist for the Indiana National Guard in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.

Patterson was studying at Valparaiso University to become a music teacher when his unit was called up for duty in Afghanistan. Though he was not required to deploy because of school, he chose to take a leave of absence from his studies to ship out with his unit in November.

It was a decision of honor, and one that Mooseheart student Andrew Remy plans on making himself.

"I've always wanted to join the military. Ever since I was a kid," the NJROTC member said. He said that Patterson's death, while tragic, would not deter him from serving his country.

"I've made up my mind (to join) already. Nothing is going to change that," he said.

Patterson's family has a similar mindset.

Christopher's younger brother, Carl Patterson, a 2010 West Aurora graduate, recently reported for training in the Marines. His father, Robert Patterson, is retired from the Navy, and his mother, Mary Patterson, is a Navy reservist, yeoman second class.

Patterson died alongside three other members of the 713th Engineer Company: Staff Sgt. Jonathan M. Metzger, 32; Spc. Brian J. Leonhardt, 21, and Spc. Robert J. Tauteris Jr., 44, all of Indiana.

Patterson is being remembered throughout the communities he touched. Valparaiso University has planned a memorial service for Patterson and his fellow guardsmen, and Patterson's name will be added to North Aurora's Veterans Memorial.

Another procession will be held Friday morning as Patterson's remains are taken from Moss Funeral Home to Immanuel Lutheran Church, where visitation will be held.

The procession will leave the funeral home at 10 a.m., travel south down Randall Road, turn east onto Plum Street, turn south on Commonwealth Drive and pull through the high school's main driveway along Galena Boulevard.

West Aurora High School and Jefferson Middle School students and staff will gather outside at 10:30 a.m. as the procession drives past the schools. The route was designed to pass by the high school's auditorium because Patterson's many performances there. He graduated from West in 2009.

The Patriot Guard Riders will accompany the procession, and the North Aurora Fire Department will hang an American flag from ladder trucks at the high school.

Visitation will be from 1 to 8 p.m. Friday at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 950 Hart Road, Batavia.

Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, also at Immanuel Lutheran, and will be a celebration of song. The Patterson family encourages everyone attending to wear red to honor the color of Christopher's hair.



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