Supporters fill OSU campus for fallen soldier's funeral
We'll have a full story from Sunday's memorial service in this evening's broadcast.
CORVALLIS, Ore. - As family and friends gathered to honor Army Ranger Cody James Patterson on Sunday, thousands showed up to support the fallen soldier.
Pfc. Cody James Patterson lost his life on Oct. 6 during an attack in the Zhari district of Afghanistan. Three others died on the same mission to stop a suicide bomber.Patterson's father, Randall, said at Sunday's service that he knew from the time Cody was four years old that his son would be in the military."He also wanted challenge himself... to see if he could be that kind of man - and he did," Randall Patterson said.
Supporters flooded the Oregon State University campus Sunday, hoping to maintain a respectful atmosphere at the service.
Last week a church known for picketing the funerals of soldiers announced a plan to protest the service.The Westboro Baptist Church claims Patterson and other fallen soldiers died in vain, slain by God's wrath.
"To deny us our First Amendment rights is to declare to the world that Pfc. Patterson died in vain and that America is nation of sodomite hypocrites," the church claims.
While the Westboro Baptist Church vowed to protest Sunday's memorial service, officers from the Corvallis and State Police Departments told our news reporters that they hadn't seen anyone from the church group.
A counter-protest quickly gained traction through social media, drawing thousands to the campus to help bar potential protesters from disrupting the service.
"We want to be completely peaceful, and we want to just represent the country that he fought and died for by having the American flag out here to keep the signs covered," said Joseph Hedberg, a National Guard veteran.
A large group of Patriot Guard Riders was among the large gathering around OSU's LaSells Stewart Center. One rider said he didn't expect protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church to show up, but said everyone would "keep it professional" if they do.
Police in Corvallis urged everyone to remain peaceful and refrain from any direct contact with the Westboro protesters.
"It's heart-wrenching in itself because I couldn't imagine being in that family and knowing that this is going to happen at their son's funeral when all they're trying to do is put him at peace," said Alaura Granados.
Hedberg made a Facebook page "OSU Supports Cody Patterson" and shared it with his fellow former National Guardsmen to organize a counter protest at Patterson's memorial.