News

“He was my hero.” Whidbey remembers Chief Petty Officer Patrick Wade

Chief Petty Officer Patrick Wade
Chief Petty Officer Patrick Wade's wife, Keri, comforts Shirley Wade, the sailor's mother, as she holds an American flag following Wednesday's funeral for the sailor in Oak Harbor.
— image credit: Spencer Webster

OAK HARBOR ­— Though his death has changed everything, Kari Wade said one thing would stay the same following the loss of her husband to a roadside bomb in Iraq.

“We started a life and a family together and we’re going to finish it together. He is with me always,” she said.

Chief Petty Officer Patrick Wade was killed by a roadside bomb in Salah Ad Din, Iraq, earlier this month. At a memorial service for the sailor, those who knew him best said he was a fun-loving prankster, a devoted father and a dedicated member of a Navy bomb squad whose meticulous nature garnered him the title of “poster boy” of Whidbey’s explosive ordnance disposal unit.

Wade was born Aug. 13, 1968 in Appleton, Wisc. And for mother Shirley and brothers Robert, Gary and Scott and sister Cheryl, Wade’s light glowed supreme in his effervescent smile and his Gerber-babylike chubby cheeks.

Eulogist Linda Haddon said Wade grew up surrounded by sports; he lettered in wrestling at Little Wolf High School in Manawa, Wisc. and also ran track and played football. When he wasn’t running on the football field or the track, Wade spent time at Bear Lake, where he boated, skied and swam.

Haddon recalled one time when Wade decided his boat wasn’t fast enough to pull skiers behind it with just a single little outboard motor. So, he placed two more on the back and started the motors. It promptly reared up and sank.

After he graduated, instead of designing boats, he enlisted in the Navy.

His mother and brothers Robert and Gary had served in the military before him; Robert died during an Air Force helicopter accident in 1993.

Wade first wanted to join one of the Navy’s elite SEAL teams. After he couldn’t nab a spot on one of the commando squads, he earned a coveted spot in a Navy bomb squad.

“He has served our nation in the U.S. Navy in one of the most dangerous professions he could have chosen,” Haddon said.

“He put himself in harm’s way every single day to save and protect others. The word hero does not seem to be honor enough for this great sacrifice,” she said.

His world changed in 1997, when a mutual friend introduced him to Keri York, a fellow sailor.

“Patrick’s life changed drastically,” said Haddon. “From the moment they met, they both knew it was right and it would be forever.”

Though the Navy brought the pair together, it also took them apart. When York was assigned to Rota, Spain, and Wade was stationed in San Diego, Calif., he promised that he’d write every day. He kept his promise.

“Some times it was a card or a quick note. Every day, there was something that said I am thinking of you,” Haddon said.

“Patrick poured his heart out in those letters. They were old-fashioned and romantic; not at all what you would expect from such a private guy. Those letters were everything Keri had ever wanted, needed or hoped to get. They confirmed what she knew in her heart, Patrick was the one.”

York was so sure about the relationship, she arranged for Wade to meet her parents and siblings for dinner.

But what began as dinner transformed into three solid days at the family home. Keri’s family was also hooked, especially her brother Kyle, who’d always longed for a big brother.

By the end of the visit, York’s parents told her she’d better marry him.

“It truly was a match made in heaven,” Haddon said, recalling how Wade proposed on a house boat on Lake Powell.

The couple married on April 19, 2003. They welcomed daughter Noel in 2004 and Esme in 2006.

Hadden also recalled Wade’s trusty “Mule,” the Chevy he loved so much that he had it shipped twice overseas when he was reassigned.

Even after he got rid of the car, he remembered it by giving its name to his newest ride, the armored vehicle that carried him around in Iraq.

He was three men, said his friend and fellow sailor, Chief Petty Officer Bob Zimmerman.

As an explosive ordnance disposal tech, Zimmerman was impressed with his friend’s attention to detail.

“He was a very meticulous man. I’ve never met anyone more more meticulous,” he said.

“From the very beginning phases in school, attention to detail was paramount. He was very slow, very deliberate. His actions were well thought out. That didn’t just apply to his job. That was in all aspects of his life,” Zimmerman said.

“To me, Pat was always a great friend,” he added. “Pat cared about what you were saying. It didn’t matter who you were. He listened.”

Zimmerman said he found himself surprised at his friend’s capacity for love and family.

“I knew about Keri through Pat. I could see this adoration that he had for her in just talking about her,” Zimmerman said.

“Pat showed up in Rota and after that he was a different person. I didn’t even know this side of Pat Wade. He was absolutely beaming. I thought I knew him and now I really knew him.

“There was something in Patrick that was born when his children were born.” Zimmerman added. “I like to fancy myself as a family man, but the way that Pat adored his family was an example for me to follow.”

Wade impressed his superiors, as well, with his ability to lead his men and do the dangerous jobs that others avoided.

“I could read a biography, his chief assignments, but that could not convey his management responsibility he had as a U.S. Navy chief petty officer,” said Cmdr. Martin Beck, the former commanding officer of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit-11.

Beck said Wade was dedicated to setting a standard for all others.

“It is a rare gift few of us possess to be able to inspire them to achievements they never would have attempted alone, especially under extraordinary conditions. This was Chief Wade’s character. He was dedicated to training himself and his teammates, never accepting less than 100 percent and setting a goal of higher,” Beck said.

“His mission was to save lives,” said Rear Adm. Michael Tillotson, deputy commander of the Navy’s Expeditionary Combat Command.

“By his action, he saved countless lives. To him, he made a difference knowing that he was saving lives.”

Wade made a huge difference to his family and friends as well.

Bob York said he was grateful after Wade joined the family.

“I was proud to call Patrick my son-in-law. Patrick was just like my own,” he said.

“He was a dad like no other. He loved those kids. As a father, the day that I was able to pass my daughter off to Patrick was one of the happiest days of my life because they were partners,” he said.

York said he would consider his life a success if he could be just half the man Wade was.

“And while I am having a hard time grasping what life is going to be like without Patrick in it, I am extremely grateful for the time I did have with him,” York said.

Kyle York had never had a big brother to look up to, but that changed when Wade joined the family a decade ago.

“Anyone who knows me knows that I begged my parents to give me a brother,” York said.

“From the first second I ever met Patrick, I couldn’t have drawn him better myself,” he said. “He was my hero, my idol. He will forever be the best big brother I ever had. I will forever miss him.”

Wade’s wife spoke last.

“Patrick was not the kind of guy who patted himself on the back a lot but he really deserved this,” she said.

“This past week has been heartbreaking. But every time I thought my heart was in a million pieces, something happened to put it back together. Patrick and I were strong people independently. But together we were indestructable and that has not changed,” she added.

Wade gave her strength and wisdom, she said.

“His impact on our life is short, sweet, to the point and powerful. I want everyone to hold that close and dear, to live it and to love it and I know that we all will be OK.

“He loved what he did, and I struggled with having to say this, but I guess I will be to the point — but he went out with a bang.”

Spencer Webster can be reached at 221-5300 or at swebster@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Aug 30 edition online now. Browse the archives.