Saturday, February 24, 2007

Matthew Pathenos laid to rest

ST. LOUIS — On his first tour of duty in Iraq, Lance Cpl. Matthew Pathenos had a knack for making his Marine comrades laugh and forget the ugliness they'd see on patrol.

The stories about Pathenos, a young Marine reservist from Ballwin, spilled out of a typed letter — sent in a hurry late last week from his best friend still serving in Iraq.

The more than 400 mourners at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church on Saturday heard the one-page letter read aloud at the funeral for Pathenos.

"The best thing about Matt was his ability to wake up every day with a smile and hold it all day long," wrote Lance Cpl. Robert Cross.

Cross joked about how Pathenos would greet him when he returned from patrol.

"He would always ask me if I had a rough day at the office and then proceed to tell me how he spent all day cooking and cleaning the house for me," Cross wrote. "It was those little jokes that made me forget about the horrible things that we see right outside in the city."

Pathenos, 21, was killed Feb. 7 in Fallujah while conducting combat operations in the Anbar province of Iraq. He was riding in a Humvee when it was struck by an improvised explosive device.

Pathenos had been in Iraq since October and was due home in April. Pathenos is a 2003 graduate of Parkway South High School.

His older brother, Christopher Pathenos, is a Marine sergeant. In a photo tribute at the church, pictures show the inseparable brothers: Matthew and Christopher in matching plaid jumpers as little boys, on the golf course as teenagers and later as young men sporting military garb and the traditional "high and tight" Marine haircuts.

Christopher Pathenos completed two tours of duty in Iraq and was back home in St. Louis when the family got word of Matthew's death, said Melanie Johnes, their stepsister.

Christopher had been motivated to join the Marines after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. "For Matty, the motivation was more Christopher, seeing how the Corps treated him," Johnes said.

"We're a very patriotic family, and Matty died for our freedom," she said.

At the funeral, mourners filed past the flag-draped casket. Some wiped away tears, and a few wailed, as they said their goodbyes. Christopher Pathenos sat in the first row of pews, wearing his dress Marine uniform.

The Pathenos family for generations has come to the ornate sanctuary of St. Nicholas church. It's where Matthew was baptized, and where his great-grandparents, grandparents and parents were married.

"These parish walls have seen the happiest of times for our family and tragic times, this being the most tragic of times," said Matthew's uncle, Nicholas Pathenos, a Greek Orthodox priest from Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

Nicholas Pathenos last spoke to his nephew a few weeks before he was deployed. They talked about planes. Matthew got his pilots license at age 14. He teased his uncle that a Cessna aircraft was better than a Piper.

"I told him when he gets back, we'll go flying," the uncle recalled.

Matthew Pathenos belonged to the 3rd Battalion, 24th Marines, which has its headquarters and service company at Lambert Field. He was in Iraq with a sister unit, the Detroit-based 1st Battalion, 24th Marines.

Christopher Pathenos has told family members he'll return to Iraq if needed.

Johnes said, "But we pray that won't happen."

From the Post Dispatch

Related Link:
Matthew P. Pathenos killed conducting combat operations