Janet Scott, Math Teacher/Coach Franklin Middle School, account of the USAF Academy’s Memorial Service for Matthew Patrick.
I was Matthew’s Math Team Coach at Franklin Middle School in Dallas, Texas. He was a math coach /teacher’s dream of a student. Every weekend we attended contests and Matthew usually came in first in Number Sense, Calculator, Math and Science AND won best all around 7th grader or 8th grader. I got to know Bev and Matt well because they (and so many other parents) helped each weekend transport the kids, corral the kids, feed the kids and celebrate the triumphs of the kids. This was and is an OUTSTANDING group of young men and women!
Thursday I drove from Taos, NM to Colorado Springs to attend Matthew’s funeral at the Air Force Academy. It was a beautiful military funeral. It was a cloudy, windy, cold afternoon. I walked into the stunning chapel with spires reaching toward the sky not knowing what I was doing. There were a lot of cadets standing around in the back. I wove through them and looked around and there was Matthew’s body in the casket. The cadets were holding on to each other and saying their goodbye’s to Matthew. There was an outpouring of love and emotion. He looked very handsome in his military uniform with his hat by his side. It made the situation very REAL.
I walked down the aisle and sat behind an area that was for his squadron family. There were/would be more than 100 cadets sitting in front of me and 400 or more cadets sitting behind me.
The ministers walked down the isle with Matthew’s flag-draped coffin and pall bearers behind them and Bev, Matt and Cathy following them. I had not seen the Patricks before the service and when Bev past me she reached out and grabbed my hand.
The service was wonderful with the commandant of his squadron and three of Matthew’s close friends speaking about his accomplishments and telling great Matthew stories and a meaningful message from the ministers.
A special group of cadets surrounded the coffin and began an elaborate ceremony of folding the flag on his coffin. At one point they paused; from outside the chapel I could hear three gun shots fired followed by a fly over of jet planes. They continued to fold the flag into a triangle. One of the cadets presented it to an officer, who I later found out was the three star General over the entire Academy. The General and his wife then presented it to Bev, Matt and Cathy.
The ministers proceeded out of the chapel followed by the casket, pall bearers, Bev, Matt and Cathy and fifty or more members of the family who had come for the service. We then filed out row by row and stood on the steps and terrace of the chapel. Bev, Matt and Cathy stood at the bottom of the long set of steps accepting everyone’s condolences. Over 500 cadets stood on the steps at attention until each guest had been greeted and then they formed two lines on each side of the hearse. The lines seemed to go on forever. As the hearse began to drive through the sea of blue uniforms each saluted. The family cars followed the hearse which led the procession off of the Academy grounds.
There was an outpouring of love, affection, warmth and caring from Matthew’s Air Force Academy family for the Patricks.
Later the family and friends gathered for dinner. The evening was filled with shared memories of Matthew and lots of great stories. Bev, Matt and Cathy are so incredibly strong.
It is difficult for me to understand and accept the death of Matthew Patrick. The Patricks are such a loving and close family, who I have been lucky enough to know and keep in touch with. Parents hold your children close and kids please remember there is someone who really cares about you!