Friday, July 21, 2006

Marine Capt. Christopher T. Pate

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Capt. Christopher T. Pate, 29, of Hampstead, N.C.

Capt. Pate was assigned to the 2nd Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, Command Element, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; killed July 21, 2006 while conducting combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq.

The Oregonian -- Student of Eastern religions. Mountain climber. Triathlete. Polyglot. Marine. Renaissance man.

Those are among the words family and friends use to describe U.S. Marine Capt. Christopher T. Pate, who died Friday in the Anbar province of Iraq after an improvised explosive device ripped through his patrol.

Now they add "hero."

Marine officers are telling Pate's parents, Jerry and Kathy Pate, that their 29-year-old son used his dying words to radio for help. Two sergeants training Iraqi soldiers with Pate lost legs in the attack. Pate's call might have saved their lives, Jerry Pate said.

He cried Tuesday as he said his only child might win the Bronze Star for heroism.

Chris Pate, who was raised in Beaverton and graduated from Oregon Episcopal School in Raleigh Hills, was a man of the world. He paddled the Amazon River while learning Spanish. He studied for a year in Germany, not knowing the language before attending the University of Freiberg. And he was studying Arabic in Iraq.

As a student at Oregon Episcopal, he spent Winterim, the extracurricular week before spring break, at a Buddhist monastery in Washington. And then he went fishing in Alaska with his dad.

"He liked to think of himself as a renaissance man," Jerry Pate said from his home in central Florida.

Alex Sutton and Jon Reali on Tuesday remembered their boyhood friend as someone who loved to beat competitors in triathlons. He still had the Isuzu Rodeo he bought as a high school junior. And if he said he would be at your house at 5 a.m. to go fishing, he was there at 5 a.m. -- with coffee.

Pate wanted to learn to ride a motorcycle, not because he had one, but because he might need to know someday. Going to Powell's Books with Pate turned into an esoteric journey through Eastern religions, Norse mythology and other surprises.

"Things you wouldn't expect from the average Marine," Sutton said.

"He didn't fit any mold," Reali said. "He chose his own path."

Sutton's favorite memory of his friend was from when they were 14. Sutton was going on a rare camping trip without his friend. Pate hid two bricks in Sutton's backpack, along with a note.

"Hey, Alex, I just wanted to let you know how important physical fitness is and you're looking a little flabby." The note ended with a caution that the bricks belonged to Sutton's mom and she wanted them back.

But the mischievous boy became a man. Reali will always remember Pate, the stoic bald-headed Marine, getting emotional while offering a toast at Sutton's wedding in September. Pate didn't like public speaking, but he brought down the house.

"It broke him up to say those things," Reali said. "But that was the one point I can say I was most proud."

Pate was born in Orlando, Fla. His family moved to Beaverton in 1984, and Pate attended Elmonica Elementary, Five Oaks Middle and Aloha High schools before transferring to Oregon Episcopal as a junior.

Pate had been in talented-and-gifted programs, but went to the private school for an added academic challenge, Jerry Pate said.

His son was a rock climber, scuba diver, skier and white-water kayaker. In school, he played football, lacrosse and soccer.

"He was a natural Northwest boy," his father said.

Pate graduated from Oregon Episcopal in 1995. He received an academic scholarship to the University of Puget Sound and graduated in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in business administration with a specialty in international business. During college, he rowed in crew and spent a year in Germany. After graduation, he went to South America to learn Spanish.

Pate joined the Marines in December 1999.

"It was an organization he saw as being a special group that was committed to American values," Jerry Pate said.

Chris Pate reached the rank of captain in July 2004. He was stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and assigned to the 2nd Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force.

His service took him to Okinawa, Korea, Thailand, South America and Yemen. Then Pate volunteered for two tours in Iraq, his father said. His parents wouldn't have chosen a war zone.

"As parents, of course, we just want some safe harbor for our child," Jerry Pate said.

At one point, he could have stayed home.

"He said, 'Dad, I trained those people, and I have the obligation to look after them,' " Jerry Pate said.

His tour in Iraq was scheduled to end in November.

The family is planning a private memorial ceremony. Pate will be interred in the Portland area, his father said.

Pate was engaged to marry Margaret A. Stearns, whom he met as a classmate at Oregon Episcopal. They had bought the rings and were making arrangements.

The couple were thinking about moving to Washington, D.C., Jerry Pate said. Chris wasn't sure what to do after the Marines, but with his background -- business degree, military accolades and foreign languages -- the sky was the limit. Maybe medical school. His friends wouldn't have been surprised if his future was in intelligence.

"Nothing I'm sure he could ever tell us about," Reali said.

Four days before he died, Pate sent his parents an e-mail. He had just sold some investment property and was looking forward to his wedding.

"It was the happiest he'd ever been in his life," his father said.

Marine Capt. Christopher T. Pate was killed in action on 7/21/06.

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