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People gather for a 10th anniversary memorial service for Marines Sgt. Daniel Patron in Perry Township on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. Patron died Aug. 6, 2011, while defusing a roadside bomb while serving in Afghanistan.
People gather for a 10th anniversary memorial service for Marines Sgt. Daniel Patron in Perry Township on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. Patron died Aug. 6, 2011, while defusing a roadside bomb while serving in Afghanistan. (Scott Heckel, Canton Repository/TNS)

PERRY TOWNSHIP, Ohio (Tribune News Service) — One of Kathy Patron’s wishes was for people to remember her son — U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Daniel J. Patron was killed in action 10 years ago in Afghanistan.

They do.

On Saturday morning, in front of his alma mater, Perry High School, about 200 men, women and children attended a memorial service. It was the same place a picnic was held on the Memorial Day after Patron’s death, an event that ultimately gave birth to Operation Flags of Freedom.

That day, Kathy Patron had posed a question to Steve Toohey:

“How do we never forget Danny?” she asked.

The nonprofit Flags of Freedom group began soon after by placing 1,000 American flags at the school. Toohey, its founder, said the group since has supplied thousands of flags all over Northeast Ohio for 100 events a year.

“I have to believe Danny is looking down ... saying ‘how cool is this?!’ “ Toohey told the crowd from a podium in front of the veteran’s memorial, surrounded by a couple hundred flags.

Daniel Patron was an explosive ordnance disposal technician, EOD for short. His job? Defuse and get rid of bombs, including the many improvised roadside devices troops encounter in the Middle East.

Marines in that line of work are a different breed.

“They are always in harm’s way,” said Michael Dana, a retired lieutenant general, who used an old adage from writer G.K. Chesterton to explain the required mentality: “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”

The timing of this year’s event — as U.S. troops withdraw from Afghanistan after 20 years on the ground, and the Taliban is seizing control — remained evident to Kathy Patron.

“Very ironic,” she said.

Kathy Patron holds the American flag and wipes away a tear during a 10th anniversary memorial service for her son, Marines Sgt. Daniel Patron, in Perry Township on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. Patron died Aug. 6, 2011, while defusing a roadside bomb while serving in Afghanistan.
Kathy Patron holds the American flag and wipes away a tear during a 10th anniversary memorial service for her son, Marines Sgt. Daniel Patron, in Perry Township on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. Patron died Aug. 6, 2011, while defusing a roadside bomb while serving in Afghanistan. (Scott Heckel, Canton Repository/TNS)
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Dana makes remarks during a 10th anniversary memorial service for Marines Sgt. Daniel Patron in Perry Township on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. Patron died Aug. 6, 2011, while defusing a roadside bomb while serving in Afghanistan.
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Dana makes remarks during a 10th anniversary memorial service for Marines Sgt. Daniel Patron in Perry Township on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. Patron died Aug. 6, 2011, while defusing a roadside bomb while serving in Afghanistan. (Scott Heckel, Canton Repository/TNS)
Staff Sgt. Deven Huwig plays Taps during a 10th anniversary memorial service for Marines Sgt. Daniel Patron in Perry Township on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. Patron died Aug. 6, 2011, while defusing a roadside bomb while serving in Afghanistan.
Staff Sgt. Deven Huwig plays Taps during a 10th anniversary memorial service for Marines Sgt. Daniel Patron in Perry Township on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. Patron died Aug. 6, 2011, while defusing a roadside bomb while serving in Afghanistan. (Scott Heckel, Canton Repository/TNS)
Daniel Patron
Daniel Patron (Family photo/TNS)

But Saturday’s service wasn’t a time to discuss military strategies or politics.

Instead, it was time to remember and honor Daniel Patron. The fun-loving kid with a killer smile; the teen who played in the high school band and sang in the choir; the guy who loved Norcia Bakery, mashed potatoes and gravy and rescue dogs; the son who loved his parents, Kathy and Frank; the sibling who loved his brother, Matt; and the husband who loved his wife, Cody.

Toohey, Dana and others, including Massillon Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry, took turns at the podium. They used words like patriot, role model, leader and honor, in describing Daniel Patron, a 2003 Perry High School graduate.

He served two tours of duty in Iraq and one in Afghanistan during his eight years in the military.

“Danny knew what he was getting into,” Dana said.

In fact, he was to leave the Marines in July of 2011. But he elected to extend his deployment in Operation Enduring Freedom. He was killed Aug. 6 while trying to defuse a roadside bomb at 11:19 a.m. Saturday in Sangin, in Helmand province.

“He died doing what he loved ... protecting our country,” Catazaro-Perry said.

Bill Isele wasn’t one of the speakers Saturday. The retired Marine sergeant was in charge of Patron’s platoon. He said Patron’s death capped off a horrible month-and-half for them. E.J. Pate was killed June 26, then Brad Lang lost both legs on July 26. Patron had just taken Lang’s spot as a team leader.

Isele made the trip from his home in Clearfield, Ky., for Saturday’s service. Just like every other day, he wore a silver bracelet, inscribed with Patron’s name, hometown and date of death.

“He was one of my guys,” Isele said.

©2021 The (Canton, Ohio) Repository.

Visit cantonrep.com.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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