PHILOMATH, Ore ---The treatment of a military family in Oregon has drawn national attention to a painful fallout of the federal government shutdown, and anger from residents of a mid-Willamette Valley city.
Cody Patterson, 24, of Philomath, was killed Sunday in Afghanistan. Death benefits to his family, which help with immediate expenses like funeral and travel costs, have been delayed by the government shutdown.
The Army Ranger was a member of a team protecting a female officer who was part of an outreach program to Afghani civilians. A roadside bomb killed them both, as well as two others in their team.
Patterson's father noted that members of Congress "are still getting paid" a week after the government shut down.
“If Congress were trapped in a car that sunk down in a river, I would swim to the window, and I would look them all in the eye and say, ‘Suck water,’” Randall Patterson told NBC Tuesday as he prepared to fly to Delaware to retrieve his son's body.
The reaction to the death of the 2007 Philomath High grad took two turns.
Philomath High office manager Doreen Hamilton recalls his life while looking at Facebook photos.
He smiles in a picture from childhood with his brother Eli. And older, now stands proudly with his brothers and sisters at a park setting. The pictures later show him in his army uniform and another time, cuddling a sleepy nephew against his shoulder. The last picture was posted as word spread of Cody’s death.
“His brother posted this and indicated, 'Tristen loves his Uncle Cody,' and he does,” said Hamilton. She will never forget the smiling teen, a captain of the football team.
“Basically, Cody was a great kid,” she said.
Jan Kilgore and her daughter spent most of the morning crying when they thought about his death. They are close family friends.
“I couldn’t believe it. Couldn’t breath. Could not believe it,” Kilgore said.
But now there is more than sadness in Philomath. There is anger after word spread that Patterson’s family will not get the typical death benefit given to other families of soldiers killed in combat.
“It makes me ill. It makes me ill,” Hamilton said.
Some feel the politicians have lost track of what’s important.
Jennifer Grube coached Cody while he worked as an outdoor school counselor during his senior year. She said she’s as angry as anyone.
“It doesn’t matter, whatever the government’s doing right now," she said. "It’s about people and relationships and how you treat your family. And you should treat your family better than that."
For now, the Army has flown Cody’s father back east to retrieve his body and the death benefits may be paid later.
At the high school, the flag flies at half staff. It’s a disturbing reminder of what’s been lost for assistant Principal Jon Bartlow.
(Below: Raw video of Patterson's body returning to U.S.)
"I met one of our teachers walking out the door with a crank to lower the flag and he said, 'Is this okay with you?' And that was not an easy thing to see.”