Thousands of supporters fill OSU campus for soldier's memorial

Thousands of supporters fill OSU campus for soldier's memorial »Play Video

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Thousands of people gathered in Corvallis on Sunday to support and remember an Army Ranger killed in Afghanistan.

Philomath High School graduate Pfc. Cody James Patterson was killed by an improvised explosive device in a battle on Oct. 6.

Rangers from the 2nd Battalion at Joint Base Lewis-McChord led hundreds of people inside the auditorium for the memorial service.

Randall Patterson said his son Cody knew he would serve his country at an early age.

"I think Cody knew when he was three or four years old," said Randall Patterson. "Especially when some movies came out like 'Saving Private Ryan' (and) 'Black Hawk Down.' That was his favorite movie. I think that's the day he realized exactly what he was going to be."

Patterson won the Mr. PHS pageant in 2007, the year he graduated high school. His senior year he was also captain of the school's football team. He enlisted after graduation.

“I can tell, looking out at the crowd, that he was loved by so many people,” said Patterson’s best friend, Tyler Lewis. 

As tears and laughter went on inside the memorial, support for the family stood strong outside. 

"There's so many of us here who did not know Cody, and we're just hear to the family the support and love of a fallen hero," said Mica Smith, one of the thousands of people paid there respects by gathering outside Patterson’s public memorial at OSU's LaSells Stewart Center.

Many supporters were there to peacefully keep protesters away. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church, who are notorious for picketing the funerals of military members and gay people, planned to protest outside the memorial.

Police officers at the service said church members never showed up.

Once word got out that the church was planning the protest, an 'anti-protest' of sorts began to form on Facebook. Matt Enloe, a junior at OSU, started the Facebook page OSU Support for the Patterson Family. His goal was to bring people together to protect Patterson's family and keep the protesters from disrupting the service.

More than 2,500 people had joined the group by Sunday morning.

"The family deserves to have the funeral the way they want it," said Kat Sanderson with the American Legion Riders. "It's the right thing to do. I mean, it's really a good feeling to know that we still band together, we're still brothers and sisters."

Flags across Oregon were flown at half-staff on Sunday in Patterson's honor.

KATU's Chelsea Kopta and other news staff contributed to this article.