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Byron Marine a man of faith

Andrew Patten was one of 10 to die Thursday in a roadside-bombing attack in Iraq.


By MIKE WISER, Rockford Register Star

ROCKFORD — His fellow Fox Company Marines called Andrew Patten “the Rev.”

The nickname is a testament to how seriously the 19-year-old Byron High School graduate took his faith.

Patten was killed Thursday in Fallujah, Iraq, alongside nine others when a roadside bomb — the military calls them IEDs, or improved explosive devices — exploded in the midst of their foot patrol. It was the second-worst attack on U.S. troops since the Iraq war began.

Sunday afternoon, two days after Andrew’s father, Alan, got a 3:30 a.m. visitor at the door informing him of his son’s death, Andrew’s parents talked about their son’s faith to local news media at a home in Rockford.

Sunday night, members of Andrew’s Rockford church, Maywood Evangelical Free Church, gathered for the ministry hour where special prayers were given for a Marine that many had known since he was a boy.

“Tonight we recognize that his family, as well as his church family, have suffered a tremendous loss,” Maywood Associate Pastor Dave Currie prayed in front of about 50 worshippers who attended the sermon.

“The Second Death cannot touch Andy. We know that Andy lives.”

This church is where services for Andrew will be held, but a date has not been scheduled. For now, the church has erected a small memorial to him — a poster-sized picture of him in his dress blues accompanied by the Bible passage, John 15:13.

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

At the home, Andrew’s parents, Alan Patten and Gayle Naschansky, sat together on a couch next to a Christmas tree topped with a dove and talked a bit about their son.

Andrew had chosen to go into the Marines after high school because he was unsure of how he wanted to spend the rest of his life. Alan said he encouraged his son to go into a branch like the Navy or the Air Force so he could learn to work on machines.

“He told me, ‘I want to be a Marine, Pop,’ and that was that,” Alan said Sunday. Andrew was expected to serve a seven-month tour overseas. He left on July 4th this year and was expected back at the end of December or in early January. His parents hope he will be buried in Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

“He was extremely involved in the church and wasn’t afraid to share his faith,” Naschansky said of her son. “The nickname they gave him was ‘the Rev.,’ and I could see how they could call him that, how he’d talk to them about his faith.”

It was through church that Andrew met most of his close friends, like Eddie and Josh Engelert and Matt Nyberg. The three boys, and others, were with Alan and Naschansky Sunday.

His friends talked about Andrew’s outgoing personality, how he once drove his truck through a five-foot snowbank in the church parking lot and how they planned on visiting Andrew at the base 29 Palms California where he was stationed stateside.

“It looks like we’ll be going to Washington, D.C. for the burial instead,” Eddie, 20, said. “It’s just the fact that we’re all Christians, I don’t know how I would be doing if we weren’t all Christians and that he’s in Heaven.”

While church and family were a big part of his life, there were other parts as well.

Alan said his son was an outstanding athlete who played football and wrestled in high school. He also had an ear for music, his latest passion was the guitar, but he played piano, viola, and the trumpet.

“I had to draw the line at the saxophone,” Alan said, laughing a bit at the memory. “He had an ear for music, he was a natur-al.”

In a news release sent Sunday, Byron School District Superintendent Marge Fostiak said Andrew’s teachers remembered him as a hardworking student who showed leadership. “We are proud to claim such a fine young man and true American hero as a graduate of our district,” Fostiak said.

Naschansky recalled getting satellite phone calls from her son. At the front lines, they didn’t have ready access to the Internet and such, and the whole unit had to share one satellite phone. She supplemented her conversations with Andrew by logging onto a Web site www.marineparents.com and writing with other parents who had children with Andrew. She said her involvement with the group has helped her immensely, particularly since Friday.

“I’ve heard from some other people who were in the squad, but survived,” Naschansky said. “They told me what happened, it’s been extremely helpful and I’m so grateful for them.”

Andrew is survived by his parents, his sister, Allison, and grandparents, Richard and Dorothea Seaman.

Contact: mwiser@rrstar.com; 815-987-1377

Andrew Patten memorial Web site

Olson Funeral Chapels has a Web site available for people to send condolences to the family of Andrew Patten. Visit www.olsonfh.com. In the left menu on that site, click on “obituaries/condolences,” then scroll down to the Andrew Patten link.

Rock River Valley War Dead

Casualties (accidents and combat) from the war with ties to the Rock River Valley:

Brandon Rowe, 20, of Roscoe, 101st Airborne Division; March 31, 2003.

Kelly J. Sanders, 38, formerly of Dixon, civilian employee of the U.S. Air Force; March 28, 2003.

Lincoln Hollinsaid, 27, of Malden, with family in Rockford and Monroe Center; 3rd Infantry Division; April 7, 2003.

Christian C. Schulz, 20, of Colleyville, Texas, with family in Rockford; U.S. Army specialist; died July 11, 2003.

1st Lt. Brian Slavenas, 30, graduated from DeKalb High School, family from Rockford; F Company, 106th Aviation Battalion; Nov. 1, 2003.

Army Pfc. Scott Matthew Tyrrell, 21, of Forreston, 299th Charlie Company; Nov. 20, 2003.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Branden Ramey, 22, of Belvidere; Nov. 8, 2004.

Lance Cpl. Neil D. Petsche, 21, of Lena; Dec. 21, 2004.

Lance Cpl. Andrew Grant Patten, 19, of Byron; Dec. 1, 2005.