Soldier 'more than paid in service to all of us'

Mike Berry/GateHouse News Service
Military and political dignitaries joined area residents in turning out last week to honor Sgt. Schuyler Patch, a Galva resident who was killed while serving with U.S. military forces in Kandahar, Afghanistan on Feb. 24. Members of the Illinois National Guard Honor Team are seen standing at attention as Sgt. Patch arrives by hearse to the Schueneman and Tumbleson Funeral Home in Kewanee on Thursday. Funeral services were held Saturday at Wethersfield High School. Gov. Pat Quinn was among those attending the service.

A role model. A friend. A brother. A true American hero.

Sgt. Schuyler Patch of Galva was all these things to the people who spoke during services Saturday, March 7 for Sgt. Patch, 25, who was one of four soldiers killed when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in Kandahar Province in Afghanistan on Feb. 24.

More than 1,000 people attended the services Saturday afternoon in the gym at Wethersfield High School, from which Sgt. Patch graduated in 2002.

Army National Guard vehicles were positioned at each end of Willard Street in front of the school, and veterans stood by the flags that lined the sidewalk leading to the entrance.

The program began with a procession led by six National Guard soldiers bearing Sgt. Patch’s flag-draped coffin, followed by family members, as “An American Soldier” by Toby Keith was played.

Among the dignitaries attending the service was Gov. Pat Quinn, who said it was “a very sad day for our state, and for our country, and for our world.”

The governor quoted an old saying that service to others is the “rent” we pay for living on this earth. Of Sgt. Patch, he said, “He more than paid his rent in service to all of us.”

Quinn said his oldest son is the same age as Sgt. Patch, who he said lived a “purposeful life.”

“He is a role model and an all-American hero for all of us and for all time,” Quinn said. “He’s the best of the best.”

Among other dignitaries attending were State Sen. Dale Risinger and State Rep. Don Moffitt.

Sgt. Patch’s sister, Amber Patch Troxell, spoke of how close she and her brother were when they were children.

“He loved everything about the Army,” she said, “and he believed in everything he was doing over there.”

Also speaking were three of Sgt. Patch’s friends, Bobby Oldeen, David Trigg and Jerry Galli.

Representatives of the Blue Star Mothers presented special banners to the family.

Capt. Jon Prain, a National Guard chaplain, opened the service with Psalm 46 (“God is our refuge and our strength”) and said he was gratified by the “tremendous outpouring of sympathy and support that you have shown to this family.”

“We gather to shed our tears, and also to smile some fond smiles,” Capt. Prain said. “Today we remember his service, we honor his life and we pay tribute to his memory.”

In his funeral message at the end of the service, Capt. Prain used the theme “We are not alone. We are not without hope.”

He urged the family and friends of Sgt. Patch to call on God for help to get through this trying time.

Capt. Prain pointed out that Sgt. Patch had volunteered - first by joining the National Guard in Oklahoma in 2005, and then by accepting his second deployment to Afghanistan, even though he could legally and morally have declined.

“He heard freedom’s call. He paid freedom’s price, so that we all might enjoy the benefits of freedom,” he said.

Capt. Prain said some members of the Oklahoma National Guard Unit with which Sgt. Patch served made the trip to Kewanee for Saturday’s service. He said that indicated what kind of soldier, and what kind of man, Sgt. Patch was.

“He was, and always shall be, an American soldier,” Capt. Prain said.

After the service, there was a procession up Tenney and Main streets to Second Street and Pleasantview Avenue to Pleasant View Cemetery.

There, the Illinois National Guard Military and Funeral Honor Team from Chicago gave a 21-gun salute.

American flags were presented to Sgt. Patch’s parents and to his sister.

Sgt. Patch is the first person to die in war while residing in Galva since John E. Kellett was killed in the Viet Nam War.

Amanda (left) and Sandra Slover, friends of the family, hold a homemade sign showing their support for Sgt. Schuyler Patch as his remains are brought to Veterans Park in Kewanee for a brief ceremony before proceeding to the funeral home.