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Tribute to a fallen hero
Chief Petty Officer Patrick Wade accomplished more in 38 years than most people are able to muster in a much lengthier lifetime.
What made the sailor different was his attitude. Although goal-oriented, his accomplishments included his friends and family. And his Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11 team, all of whom he would put in the former category.
Wade died July 17 in Iraq when an improvised explosive device detonated against his EOD teams JERRV. Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffrey L. Chaney, 35, of Omaha, Neb. was also killed and Petty Officer 1st Class David Hauxhurst was injured.
An emotionally-charged memorial service for Wade was held Wednesday at First Reformed Church in Oak Harbor. From family, to close friends, to scores of peers, to elected officials, to Pearl Harbor survivors, the service was a stirring tribute to an American hero who paid the ultimate price doing a job he loved.
"This is one of the first times a funeral has come home to Oak Harbor," said Kim Martin, Whidbey Island Naval Air Station public affairs officer. "It was important for his wife to bring his body back here so she could share the experience with the area."
Senior Chief Explosive Ordnance Technician Bob Zimmerman said Wade was one of the fortunate ones. He was given a calling, a duty that was crucial for his personal and professional fulfillment. And that calling extended beyond the EOD community in which he thrived.
"If you're called to do something, you have to do it," Zimmerman said at the funeral. "Patrick was called to be an EOD tech, he was called to be a friend, and he was called to be a family man."
Wade's slow, deliberate nature permeated every aspect of his life. He made sure everything was in order before marrying his wife Keri. The couple waited to have children until they were sure they were ready.
"He'd achieved complete happiness. He figured it out," said Zimmerman, the escort for the family when they were in town. "He was fulfilling his purpose. His legacy to us is his life. He was a template we can apply to our own lives."
Cmdr. Martin Beck, former EODMU-11 commanding officer, said Wade was dedicated to setting a standard and raising the bar to an unprecedented level.
"That's a rare gift that few of us possess, to motivate people to do what they wouldn't normally do...," he said. "That was Chief Wade's character. His commitment to the EOD community was unmatched."
The skilled explosive expert's leadership and steadfastness allowed him to lead more than 100 counter IED missions. Beck's last words to Wade were, "Chief, bring 'em home."
"He looked me square in the eye and said, 'I will, sir.' He is a hero," he said. "He selflessly placed his nation above his own life ... We shall live our lives in his memory."
Wade was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star Medal.
Care celebrant Linda Haddon described a young Patrick Wade as mischievous. Rear Adm. Michael Tillotson, deputy commander of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command in Norfolk, Va., said the mischievous side survived as the chief advanced in age.
"He was an EOD tech, he was a warrior, and he was a hero," Tillotson said. "Pat Wade gave his life saving the lives of others."
"I was proud to call Patrick my son-in-law," said Bob York, Wade's father-in-law.
Wade had many monikers, but York had a personal favorite.
"The thing I loved to hear him called most was 'daddy,'" he said.
Since the tragedy, Wade's wife Keri has felt as if her heart will break into a million pieces. But each time she has been on a precipice, someone has brought her back. Through the death she has seen life through entirely different eyes.
"I've had the best week I've ever had with my children," she said.
Both Wades were strong, independent people. As a couple, they were much more.
"Together we were indestructible," Keri said.
Struggling to string together the perfect words to punctuate a life well-lived, Keri added an appropriate dose of levity and irreverence to the funeral.
"He went out with a bang," she said. "I think he's probably satisfied."
Military honors and the touching of Wade's casket and the laying of roses followed the ceremony. The Patriot Guard Riders held vigil throughout the ceremony holding flags and paying tribute. First Reformed Church was a scene of reverence and patriotism, a melding of the military and civilian communities. It was a fitting tribute to a true hero.
Wade's ashes will be flown back to Wisconsin and scattered over Bear Lake, where the taciturn and unflappable sailor spent countless days during his tragically truncated life.