Andy Patten with mom Gayle Naschansky prior to joining the Marines.

Byron native Andy Patten graduated from Byron High School in May of 2004. Andy’s mom, Gayle Naschansky of Byron recalls what a good kid Andy was, “He always wanted to be in the military. I remember when he was 12 years old how he wrote a story for school about a lot of old vets with white hair sitting around reminiscing about their days in the service. It was an interesting story he had to tell.”

Growing up, Andy was very involved in the church the family attended, Maywood Evangelical Church in Rockford. He had a faith in God and in doing “the right thing.” He also loved to sing and had a wonderful singing voice along with an artistic bent. He was musically inclined and was a normal kid, who loved camping and fishing and the outdoors, along with four-wheeling and being very active in his church group.

“In the 5th grade he was in the orchestra and played the viola, then went on to play trumpet in the band, and guitar in his church youth group.”

Naschansky recalls, “When he graduated I tried to enroll him in Rock Valley College automotive classes. However, Andy had other ideas and the day he turned 18 he enlisted at Rockford in the Marine Corps.”

Basic training was in San Diego, California, and Andy graduated boot camp in October of ’04. His mom noted, “I always assumed everything would be fine and he would come home after serving.”

He was enrolled in Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) for Infantry training at the Twemtynine Palms Marine Base in California.

Per Wikipedia, “The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, also known as 29 Palms, is the largest United States Marine Corps base. It was a census-designated place officially known as Twentynine Palms Base located adjacent to the city of Twentynine Palms in southern San Bernardino County, California.”

On July 4, 2005, Andy was deployed and was stationed at a Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Iraq. By December, he was nearing the end of his seven-month deployment, and his mother recalls how he talked to her on phone calls, which tended to be hit and miss, and how proud he was during the Iraqi election to be able to guard polling places, along with rooftop observations, He did note that it was a “hot” job due to the hot asphalt and sticky melting of the asphalt that resulted. Also, in the intense heat doing roadside checks while dressed in full military gear was not an unusual experience.

“They had to be constantly on the alert and there was a lot of stress due to the life and death situations that were involved,” his mother explained.

*Operation Iraqi Freedom:

The following article appeared in the New York Times on Dec. 3, 2005;

“The Struggle for Iraq: Combat Blast in Fallujah Kills 10 Marines; 11 Are Wounded…by John F. Burns

“BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 2 – A year after marines led an American assault force in recapturing Fallujah, 10 Marines conducting a foot patrol on the edge of the city were killed at dusk Thursday by a bomb fashioned from several large artillery shells.

“Eleven other Marines were wounded in the blast, the worst in a drumbeat of insurgent attacks on American troops in and around Fallujah that never ceased after the Nov. 2004 offensive there that cost 60 American Marines and soldiers their lives.

“Details of the Fallujah bombing were sparse, with the Marine Corps holding to a policy of releasing few facts about the circumstances of combat deaths in their statement on Friday.

“But an American official in Fallujah said Friday that the attack that killed the 10 Marines occurred at or near an abandoned factory on a peninsula that juts into the Euphrates River on the city’s western edge, an area that was the target of the first Marine attack in the eight-day offensive last November that reduced much of Fallujah to rubble.

“The official, who asked that he not be identified because he was not authorized to speak about the attack, said the Marine unit that suffered the casualties had only recently been moved to the area.

“The high casualty toll in the Fallujah bomb attack brought to 205 the total number of American combat deaths in the western desert province of Anbar in the last nine months, since a major rotation of Marine units there that handed much of the fighting to the Second Marine Division, according to figures supplied by the Marines.

“Marine combat deaths in the province, west of Baghdad, heartland of the Sunni Arab insurgency, have been proportionally the highest of any American units in Iraq. According to the Iraqi Coalition Casualty Count, a nonprofit organization that tracks American military deaths on its website, 2,127 American servicemen and women have died, including the 10 Marines, since the invasion 32 months ago.

“The worst American losses in Anbar this year, before Thursday’s bombing, involved a Marine helicopter that crashed in poor visibility, killing 31 Marines at Rutba, near the Jordanian border, in January; a roadside bombing killed 14 Marines in an amphibious troop carrier near the western town of Haditha in August.

“In their statement on the Fallujah bombing, the Marines said seven of the 11 wounded men had returned to duty.

“A White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said President Bush had been informed of the Fallujah attack on Thursday and briefed again on the incident on Friday. ‘We are saddened by the loss of lives, whether it is one soldier who loses his or her life, or 10 or 11,’ Mr. McClellan said.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to their families, their loved ones, he said. ‘We are forever grateful for their service and sacrifice.’”

Additional information on the Dec. 1, 2005 incident, according to the U.S. military is, “A unit from the 2nd Marine Division was checking out a factory just outside of Fallujah. They were on foot when they came on the roadside bomb, which was reportedly made of several large artillery shells.

The Marines had actually been at “a ceremony celebrating the promotion of two of the men who were being promoted to lance corporal. The group went to an old flour mill on the outskirts of Fallujah,” and at the end of the celebration it was believed one of the men had stepped on a “buried pressure plate linked to explosives,” which resulted in a “devastating blast.”

A total of 11 Marines were wounded, 10 were killed, which, per the military, first identified the cause of the explosion as “an improvised explosive device fashioned from several large artillery shells.”

Ten of the Marines suffered fatal wounds, including, Lance Corporal Andy Patten.

Initially, the Pentagon reported that the men had been on a patrol mission by foot but did not give details at the time, noting only that, “The Marines were on patrol to find and defuse hidden bombs.”

From the 12-11-2005 issue of “The Stars and Stripes” military news comes this information: “On Dec. 1, 10 Marines were killed in an explosion near Fallujah. They had gathered in an abandoned flour factory that they sometimes used as a combat outpost.

“It was soon after a promotion ceremony that one Marine stepped on a pressure plate and detonated a makeshift device made with four artillery shells and buried in two spots. Though the Marines were wearing full body armor, 11 were injured and 10 killed.”

In a brief statement at the time, the military said, “Seven of the wounded Marines have since returned to duty, and they say others from the same unit are continuing counterinsurgency operations.”

In the early morning hours after Andy had been killed, Gayle Naschansky awoke “with a weird feeling” a short time before three officers were at her door and her recollections of thinking of this saying; “’If you see them coming to the door, don’t cry, mom, I’m already in heaven.’ That is the thought that came to my mind when I saw the three men walking up the sidewalk to our door.”

A Navy officer (the Marines are under the jurisdiction of the Navy) gave her the news that her son had been killed. She and her family’s faith in God gave her the strength to get through it and to carry on.

Another officer was in Andy’s Division and another one was there to offer “casualty support or assistance,” something which helped the family during that difficult time period.

Andy is now buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. right alongside one of his staff sergeants who died when Andy did.

Gayle proudly displays a letter signed by President George Bush and one by then Illinois State Senator Barack Obama offering their thanks for Andy’s service, along with their sympathy. She noted, “Our governor at the time, Rod Blagojevich, never communicated with us.”

Andy was also awarded a Purple Heart medal and Gayle met with President Bush in Washington who signed a Marine Bible for her.

Gayle is one of our area’s Gold Star Mothers. Andy is also survived by sister Allison and by his father Alan Patten.

Following is a list of those Marines who died, including Andy:

Lance Cpl. John M. Holmason, Surprise, Ariz.

Lance Cpl. David A. Huhn, Portland, Mich.

Lance Cpl. Adam W. Kaiser, Naperville, Ill.

Lance Cpl. Robert A. Martinez, Splendora, Texas

Lance Cpl. Andrew G. Patten, Byron, Ill.

Sgt. Andy A. Stevens, Tomah, Wis.

Lance Cpl. Craig N. Watson, Union City, Mich.

Staff Sgt. Daniel J. Clay, Pensacola, Fla.

Lance Cpl. Scott T. Modeen, Hennepin, Minn.

Cpl. Anthony T. McElveen, LittleFalls, Minn.

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