The mother of Army Spc. Christopher Patterson, slain in Afghanistan last week, described her son as an "awesome" kid whose priorities were God, country and music, in that order.
"He loved his God and his faith," Mary Patterson said Wednesday afternoon.
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Funeral arrangements have been announced for Patterson, of North Aurora.
Visitation is from 1 to 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 20 at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 950 Hart Road, Batavia. The funeral is at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 21 at the church. Burial will be private.
Patterson, 20, was with the 713th Engineer Company of the Indiana National Guard, working as a "sapper," patrolling and repairing combat routes for convoys in the Kandahar Province. He and three other soldiers were killed, and another injured, when an improvised explosive device detonated.
Mary Patterson said her son didn't have to be in Afghanistan, nor doing missions off-base. He could have deferred his deployment until after his education was complete, she said. He had joined the National Guard in the fall of 2009 in part to help pay for his studies at Valparaiso University.
"As a mom, I really didn't want him to go (to Afghanistan)," she said.
"I need to go with my battle buddies," he told her. The unit left for Afghanistan in November. It was his first deployment.
"He was just supposed to come home," she said.
His officers offered him on-base tasks, Mary Patterson said, but her son again said no, he was there to support his fellow soldiers.
He was a 2009 graduate of West Aurora High School. At Valparaiso, he was studying music education. Memorial funds are being established for both schools. The West Aurora fund will support music education.
So will the Valparaiso fund, but with a humorous twist: It will support a scholarship for red-haired music students.
"He took great pride in being a ginger," Mary Patterson said.
The family has asked everyone to wear red to his funeral.
Donations may be sent to Valparaiso University, attn.: SPC Christopher A. Patterson Scholarship Fund, Valparaiso University, Office of Advancement, 1100 Campus Drive South, Valparaiso, Ind., 46383; or West Aurora High School Music Department, attn.: Christopher Patterson Memorial Fund.
Patterson had won awards in high school for his singing, and was a member of the Valparaiso Chorale. That chorale will sing at his funeral, and music is being arranged by both Valparaiso and West Aurora music faculties.
"It (the funeral) will be a celebration of song ... Chris would have wanted everyone to sing and be happy. He is with his Lord," Mary Patterson said.
Patterson came from a family with a tradition of military service. Mary Patterson was in the Naval Reserve, father Robert is Navy retired, a stepbrother served in the Air Force and his younger brother, Carl, just joined the Marines and was scheduled to graduate from boot camp this week. "It's just who we are," Mary Patterson said.
Mary Patterson said Carl Patterson has been informed that, due to his brother's death, he will be eligible to turn down combat assignments. "I can't ask that (of him)," Mary Patterson said. But she believes Christopher Patterson would want his brother to go ahead.
Furthermore, she urged people to remember we are still at war in Afghanistan, and to support the soldiers who serve there.
"We are so proud of our boys, and of all the soldiers in Afghanistan," she said.