Funeral held for Ind. Guardsman killed in Afghanistan

January 21, 2012 7:03:30 AM PST
Funeral services were held in Hammond, Indiana, Wednesday for Sergeant Brian Leonhardt. He was one of four members of the Indiana National Guard who were killed by a road side bomb in Afghanistan.

The body of another one of those soldiers, 20-year-old Specialist Christopher Patterson, was flown to Midway Airport Wednesday afternoon. Inside the hangar, his casket was transferred to a waiting hearse in a somber ceremony that lasted only a few minutes, but allowed his family the comfort of welcoming Christopher home.

"We knew that he was with his God. The peace we felt was very real, very strong," said Christopher's father Robert Patterson.

Christopher Patterson is one of four Indiana National Guardsmen who were killed in Afghanistan on January 6. The others are 32-year-old Staff Sergeant Jonathan Metzger, 44-year-old Specialist Robert Tauteris Junior, and 21-year-old Sergeant Leonhardt.

Leonhardt's funeral was held Wednesday morning in Hammond's First Baptist Church. The Patriot Guard escorted his casket to its final resting place in Crown Point.

"Brian and Chris were two peas in a pod," said mother Mary Patterson. "Growing up they were very similar. They both played trombone, they both were in the marching band...They really were good buddies."

The Pattersons, like the Leonhardts, are a military family. Mary and Robert Patterson both served in the Navy and their younger son, Carl, just graduated from the Marine Corps boot camp. Even now, after having lost Christopher, they say they would never discourage their son from serving.

"The military is not for everybody. But to us, everybody should be serving their country in one way or another, even for a couple of years," said Robert Patterson.

"I told him, 'You could be killed in a car accident and that's a senseless death.' At least you're serving your country and doing what you love, and I take great pride in that," said Mary Patterson.

Patterson's funeral will be held this coming Saturday. His love for music and the a capella group he performed with at Valparaiso University will be the highlight of this celebration of life.

"His voice touched people, and he loved singing with VuVox," said Mary Patterson. "When he left for boot camp, that's what he missed a lot."