News

IRAQ CLAIMS TWO MORE FROM WHIDBEY Oak Harbor sailors killed by roadside bomb

Chief Petty Officer Patrick Wade is surrounded by his wife, Keri, top left, Esme, almost 1, left and Noel, 3, right. - Photo courtesy Wade family
Chief Petty Officer Patrick Wade is surrounded by his wife, Keri, top left, Esme, almost 1, left and Noel, 3, right.
— image credit: Photo courtesy Wade family

There was always laughter.

A lot of laughter.

It didn’t matter if the laughs came from someone getting beaned in the head with a garbage can lid, or the squeaky sound of a Woody Woodpecker impersonation. The family and friends of two sailors killed in Iraq this week remembered both men as happy-go-lucky souls with a great sense of adventure.

Chief Petty Officer Patrick Wade and 1st Class Petty Officer Jeffrey Chaney died Tuesday morning in Iraq following an explosion that rocked their armored vehicle.

Both were working to disarm unexploded munitions from a previously detonated roadside bomb that had been hidden in a culvert underneath a road in the city of Salah Ad Din when they were killed.

Chaney and Wade, members of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11 at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, had been in Iraq for a little more than two months.

In all, five sailors from Whidbey Island have died in Iraq this year.

The air station lost its first sailors to the five-year-old war on April 6, when three members of EODMU-11 were killed when their Humvee was hit by a rocket while on patrol in Hawijah, Iraq.

Jeffrey Chaney

Chaney, 35, grew up in Omaha, Neb., the youngest of five children, with an older brother passing away when Chaney was very young. As he got older, Chaney discovered adventure, especially with his best friend and cohort, Bart Mort.

For more than 30 years, Chaney and Mort enjoyed a bond of friendship that was forged in the kind of incidents that would make a mother and sister shudder.

“We were neighbors and went to school together and he’s always been my partner,” Mort said.

He recalled playing hooky from school once, and throwing a trash can lid like a Frisbee that hit Cheney and knocked him out for 10 seconds.

“Got him right between the eyes from a 100 yards away,” Mort recalled. “He was grinning when he got up but he was bleeding. We had to go explain that to the principal.”

April Chaney, the sailor’s sister, remembered those days with a kind of mother’s worry.

“He always called me any time, anywhere. ‘April, I need help. April, I need this,’” she said.

“He was more like a son than a brother to me. As a boy, he had lots of stitches. Jeff tripped on air. Jeff has always been an accident waiting to happen,” she said.

He never lost his playful nature, she added.

“I don’t see him as an adult. He’s a little kid still. Full-force.”

After Chaney graduated from high school in 1990, he longed for higher energy adventures than Omaha could provide, April said. So he went to a Navy recruiter’s office in 1993 and enlisted, hoping to become a SEAL, a Navy commando.

When his eyesight wasn’t good enough, Chaney fought for and found success in one of the Navy’s bomb squads.

“He finally found himself in the Navy,” his sister said. “I told him ‘You couldn’t have picked a more dangerous job if you tried.’ He said, ‘I know.’”

But through his work as a bomb disposal technician, Chaney discovered other passions as well.

“His passion was having the perfect world. Nothing bad should happen. He loved diving, adventure outside, snow skiing,” she said.

“He got all those from being in the Navy. The Navy was his life.”

It was something he wanted to share with others, too. For a while, he served as a recruiter back in Omaha, and even recruited his older brother, Randy, into the military. His brother now works as an electronics technician in communications and will be heading to San Diego, Calif. to work on mobile communications with SEAL teams.

“I just went in one day to talk with him and said ‘Hey, what can you do for me?’, Randy Chaney recalled.

“And he put me in when I was going through a rough time, a rough spot in my life, and I think he saved my life,” he said.

Chaney’s sister said the Whidbey sailor put the same energy into everything he did.

“He’s always been coming out on top. He just got promoted to EOD specialist in his unit. He did everything 150 percent. Always, he put everything into everything to be on top,” she said.

“He loved his job in EOD because he liked the thrill of it. Jeff was not a death person. He is just an adventurous outgoing, do, hands-on person. He died doing what he loved,” she said.

His longtime friend recalled a man with a generous spirit.

“I felt very proud of him, very very proud,” said Mort. “I wished I would have followed his footsteps, quite honestly.”

“He was always high-spirited, a very positive man. It absolutely impacted me as a person greatly. He is probably one of the greatest men I’ve ever known, unequivocally.”

Chaney’s brother said the past few days have been bittersweet as the family and others have shared memories about the man they loved as a brother and a friend.

“It is hard right now, but we just are sitting around the last couple of days since we’ve been notified, talking about all the good times,” Randy Chaney said.

“And really, there aren’t any bad times when Jeff was around. He was the smile of the room, the glue of the family. Every time he walked in, everyone smiled.”

“He hugged everybody and loved everybody,” April Chaney added. “We’re trying to find an enemy of his and he doesn’t have any. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t have enemies and I can’t find one for Jeff.”

Chaney is also survived by his daughter Brianna, his mother Connie, father Larry, brother Jim Eckert.

Similar paths

Patrick Wade, too, was the youngest of five siblings. One of his older brothers died during an Air Force helicopter accident in Japan in 1993.

And Wade sought adventure as he grew up near Bear Lake in Manawa, Wisc., his brother Gary said, hunting for deer, ducks and squirrel. He was plenty of passions; football, wrestling, track and band.

“He enjoyed life and was a well-rounded individual. He had fun. He was always upbeat, always motivated, trying to get you motivated,” Gary Wade said.

But while Chaney waited a few years to join the Navy, Wade jumped in with both feet right after graduation from high school in 1987. He also looked to the SEALS to fulfil his need for adventure.

“He wanted to follow his brother’s footsteps because he’d always ask me, ‘What was it like in the Marines? What did you do? Did you have fun?’

“I always told him I had fun, I liked what I was doing,” his brother recalled.

“Adventure, that was what he was looking for. When he initially went in, he tried for the BUDS Program for the SEAL teams and didn’t quite qualify for that. The next option was EOD, which is basically the same thing but with a different name on it. That was what he wanted to do,” Gary Wade said.

In June, when his brother passed his 20-year mark as a chief petty officer, he was looking forward to his next promotion.

Though the Navy was a job, it was a job Wade enjoyed.

“He was having fun and he liked what he was doing. He thought he was making a difference over there,” Gary Wade added. “And he had a lot of confidence and faith in his people, his men and his equipment.”

Wade found that Whidbey Island reminded him of home in Wisconsin, his brother said. He had bought a home at the end of December with his wife Keri and daughters Noel, 3, and Esme, nearly 1.

This was Wade’s first couple of months of his first deployment to Iraq and he had been nervous at the start of his time there, said his brother, who shared part of an e-mail Wade had sent him.

“It is normal to be nervous when you exit the vehicle outside the base. Other than that, we go on IED calls two and three times a day,” Wade wrote. “Two months into it and I am not as worried as I was when I first got here.”

“I am proud of him and I am hurt inside that I lost another brother, a good friend,” his brother said.

“He was always happy always trying to keep a smile on everyone’s face. I’d want people to know that he was a good man; he was a good brother.”

He was a good father, too, Gary Wade said, someone who knew how to make people laugh.

“He had this little laugh he always had. He sounded like Woody Woodpecker when he laughed,” he said. “Or when he’d be talking to the girls, he’d be talking like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck where you squeek through your cheeks. He was a kid at heart. He is going to be missed.”

Wade is also survived by mother Shirley, brother Scott and sister Cheryl.

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.

Sep 27 edition online now. Browse the archives.