Saturday, August 28, 2010

Army Sgt. Patrick K. Durham

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Patrick K. Durham, 24, of Chattanooga, Tenn

Sgt. Durham was assigned to 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.; died Aug. 28, 2010 in Babur, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Also killed was Spc. Andrew J. Castro.

The close-knit Suck Creek community where Patrick Durham grew up is reeling from the news that the Army sergeant was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on Saturday.

“Everyone is pretty torn up. It’s like a big family,” said family friend Eliot Richie, 28, who last weekend helped clean out a modest family graveyard a mile or so down the road in preparation for Durham’s burial. "My jaw dropped. I was stunned. I still don’t think it’s real,” Ritchie said as he worked in his yard Monday morning.

Almost everyone in their neighborhood knew the Durhams, part of a community stretched along River Canyon Road, overlooking the Tennessee River, friends say.

“He was about one of the best people you’d ever meet,” said Jeremy Massengale, 26, who said he spent countless summers swimming with Durham in the Tennessee River. “I don’t think there’s many times I haven’t seen him with a smile on his face. ... The last thing I said to him was, ‘I love you and be safe, and I’ll see you in a little bit.’”

Sunday those who knew him, paid honor to his memory. "He was just a real sweet person, kind, loving," says friend Brenda Simpson

The congregation at Grandview Church of God gathered together like they usually do on Sunday mornings, but with sad news and heavy hearts.

"I believe the last time he came here he was in on leave and I believe he came in uniform," says friend Delmer McNabb.

News of the death of Sergeant Patrick Durham rippled through the community late Saturday night.

"It really shocked me, you know?," says Jean Phillips, church pianist. Jean Phillips has played the piano for this congregation for 62 years. Durham and her grandson grew up together. "He come up and hugged me and hugged him. I said it's so good to see you," says Phillips.

Durham made a point to visit his church whenever he was on leave. The 25-year-old enlisted right after high school. He completed his first tour of duty in Iraq. In order to support his wife and three young children he recently re-enlisted for six more years.

"Of course his uncle comes to church here who actually, practically raised him," says Phillips.

Durham's family members say the young man had plenty of reasons to choose a different course in life. But just two days ago told a friend he was glad to be serving his country.

"Talked to him on Facebook recently. Patrick come back with 'I love what I'm doing'," says Phillips.

Church members stayed up late building a special tribute for the soldier. The words on their marquee say it all. "He's going to be missed in the community. We're going to miss him here at the church," says McNabb.

Durham, a father of three, attended Red Bank High School and was an avid guitar player. He had completed a tour of duty in Iraq before serving in Afghanistan, said longtime friend Amy Waite of Lookout Valley.

“He was like a little brother to me,” said Waite, who is 25. “He was a big goofball. He was always a class clown. ... Patrick was very loved. He had so many people who cared about him.”

Durham’s neighbor and third cousin Nadine Hunkapiller remembers him as a child with big brown eyes, his face alight with excitement at the prospect of setting off fireworks.

“I’ve known him since he was a baby,” Hunkapiller said on Monday morning, pausing from watering the garden at her home next door to the Grandview Church of God. The church marquee offers a tribute in memory of Durham, reading in part, “Thank you. We will miss you.”

“It was just absolutely a hard blow,” Hunkapiller said. She recalled that years ago, Durham would watch her father — a commercial fisherman — pulling in his catch on the river and Durham would call down, “How big is that one?”

“He was always smiling. I know he’ll be so missed,” Hunkapiller said.

Friends say Durham loved his work for the Army, but he was eager to get home to see his children and wife, Kristy. Saturday was the couple’s four-year wedding anniversary, Waite said.

“My heart goes out to his family. He’s going to be looking over everybody,” she said.

Family members confirm Sergeant Patrick Durham was killed by a road-side bomb sometime Saturday morning. Durham's family was notified Saturday afternoon. The 25 year-old was on his second tour of duty, and was scheduled to come home in December.

According to family members, Durham's brother is in the Air Force and stationed in Valdosta, Ga. His brother and uncle plan to fly to Delaware on Sunday to bring Durham's body home.

Crystl Jordan
Patrick, you were the best friend a girl could have, you were my rock when times got tough and you always helped me smile on through. You helped me in so many ways. I would have never meet and married my husband if not for you. I love you and your family. You will never be forgotten.

Sgt. Patrick K. Durham, 24, of Chattanooga, TN, was a cannon crewmember assigned to Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). He entered the Army in August 2006 and arrived at Fort Campbell January 2007. His awards and decorations include: Army Commendation Medal; Army Achievement Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Iraqi Campaign Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Army Service Medal; Overseas Service Medal and Weapons Qualification: M4 rifle (expert).

Army Sgt. Patrick K. Durham was killed in action on 8/28/10.

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