Sunday, September 09, 2007

Christopher G. Patton dies 'in a non-combat related incident'

A 21-year-old soldier from Lawrenceville has died in Iraq, the U.S. Department of Defense said Wednesday.

The family of Spc. Christopher G. Patton said in a statement that Patton loved military life.

"He was proud to be an American solider, and he died doing what he loved," the statement said.

The Defense Department said Patton died of a "non-combat-related incident." His family said in a statement that Patton died "as a result of a bullet wound inflicted during a routine patrol near Baghdad."

The circumstances surrounding Patton's death are under investigation, said Shari Lawrence, a spokeswoman for the defense department in Washington.

Patton graduated in 2005 from Central Gwinnett High School, where he acted and played football. He decided while in high school to enlist after graduation, said Kevin Potlock, a Central Gwinnett senior who shared a class with Patton.

"He was excited about it," Potlock said.

Rather than allow the ritual head-shaving of basic training to become a spectacle, Patton shaved his own head before leaving for infantry school in Columbus, he added.

A family friend, Mark Allison, said Patton's relatives were touched by what people wrote about Patton on the social-networking site Dozens of people offered their condolences in writing on a page titled "Chris Patton Was My Hero."

Patton, an infantryman and trained paratrooper, served with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division's 1st Combat Brigade. His unit was based in Fort Hood, Texas.

His unit is nicknamed the Black Knights, as is the high school football team for which he played.

From the Atlanta Journal Constitution