Gold Star parents, community welcome returning Marine
By Denise Crosby firstname.lastname@example.org October 20, 2013 7:50PM
Updated: November 22, 2013 6:21AM
The only thing more impressive than the flag-bearing fire engines, police cars and motorcycles that escorted Marine Lance Cpl. Carl Patterson home Saturday were the smiles on the faces of his awaiting parents.
Despite lack of sleep from the previous night, Bob Patterson seemed to be glowing. And wife Mary, like a kid on Christmas Eve, was almost giddy as the wail of sirens off Oak Street in North Aurora announced the approaching entourage.
Then, as the parade turned onto their street — now packed with family, friends and neighbors — those smiles turned to tears, then back to smiles again as Carl’s truck pulled into sight.
Mary and Bob Patterson had reason for so many emotions. In January 2012, Carl had just finished up the Crucible, a grueling training program that turns recruits into Marines, when they called to tell him his older brother had been killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.
Carl’s military training was interrupted so he could come home to help his parents — indeed, this whole community — say goodbye to 20-year-old Christopher Patterson, a West High grad and Valparaiso University music student who had joined the Indiana National Guard and had been deployed just months earlier.
When the new Marine and still-grieving little brother returned to duty, he told his commanders that, despite military protocol that Gold Star siblings are not deployed, he wanted to be sent overseas. Patriotism runs deep in the Patterson family — his dad is retired Navy, and his mom is in the Navy Reserves. So when that request was denied, friends and family said he was disappointed, even angry when his unit was deployed and he could not go with them.
Instead, Carl was sent to the Marine Corps Air Station in Cherry Point, N.C., where the young lance corporal stood out as a leader and computer specialist. But a nagging knee injury from basic training only worsened, eventually ending his one-time dream of a career in the Marines.
It was with mixed emotions, Mary Patterson admitted, when she learned this summer Carl, 20, was coming home for good.
“It was hard for him to leave the Marines,” she said. “But now he’s ready to move on with his life. And if he’s OK with that, then I am, too.”
Judging from her face, she’s more than OK her son is home again.
“I’m just so excited … so thankful,” Mary said.
She and her husband also were grateful for the many people who helped make Carl’s Saturday homecoming so special, including Gordon Food Service, which provided a banquet of meats, salads and desserts — including Carl’s favorite, carrot cake — for the large crowd of well-wishers.
In addition to North Aurora police and fire escorting him through town, the Patriot Guard Riders from Indiana accompanied Carl to the border, where the Illinois chapter took over.
This motorcycle group holds a special place in the hearts of these Gold Star parents. On a snowy winter day in January 2012, they had arrived en masse to help a family grieve for a fallen son. And on this autumn afternoon more than a year and a half later, they showed up again — this time to honor one who had safely returned.
“Thank you for bringing Carl home to us,” said Bob Patterson, his smile temporarily faded as he bowed his head in prayer. “It’s a beautiful day.”