Pat Featherby was a bouncer and concert promoter in Wichita when he saw a report on television about American soldiers being ambushed and killed in Iraq. He decided to do something about that.
He signed up for duty with the Kansas Army National Guard at age 35, earning the nickname “Grampa” in basic training.
In the Guard’s 714th Security Force, Spc. Featherby reunited with a childhood buddy, Sgt. Jerry Young. They traveled together to Iraq, roomed together and rode in the same escort convoys in northern Iraq, Young leading the way in the scout vehicle.
Both suffered multiple traumatic brain injuries from roadside bombs.
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They talked each other through the war, and after they returned home they talked each other through their lives as they dealt with severe symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and a host of other medical, financial and social issues.
Mr. Featherby died Dec. 19 of what his family said were service-related injuries. He was 44.
A viewing will be held from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday at Resthaven Mortuary, 11800 W. Kellogg. A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Monday at Resthaven.
Young, of Peck, who spent four years in Iraq over the course of multiple tours, said the two men continued to speak regularly as they helped each other get through treatment and military red tape related to pay and benefits.
Sometimes they’d talk two to three hours at a time on the telephone, he said. Each worried more about the other than himself, Young said.
Young said it was Mr. Featherby’s heart and soul that helped keep him alive during and after Iraq.
“He cared. He cared for people,” Young said. “You did him right, he’d do you right. He’d let you know straight up.”
Both men earned multiple Purple Hearts and other awards. They shared their stories in a two-part series in The Eagle in March 2008 in an effort to let people know what veterans face during and after service in Iraq.
Mr. Featherby said this in 2008 about his relationship with Young:
“All you have is each other. Without each other, we would not have made it. There is no question in my mind.”
Young said Tuesday that others worry about him now without Mr. Featherby. Young said he sometimes worries about that, as well. But he made promises to Mr. Featherby and to other people in his life to continue to fight.
Mr. Featherby’s mother, Becky Garrett, said she wasn’t surprised her son joined the Guard, in spite of his age.
“I knew from the moment he was born he would be something special. He loved his country. He even told me after his last surgery, ‘When I get well, Mom, I’m going back,’” she said.
Young said both men often spoke of returning to combat. They wanted to go to Afghanistan because they felt they hadn’t finished their job, he said.
In the 2008 interview with The Eagle, Mr. Featherby said that he sometimes preferred being in Iraq to being at home.
“You know you’re making a difference,” he said. “You find two IEDs (improvised explosive devices), maybe you just saved two lives. You get a sniper that’s shooting at you and take him out, maybe you just saved the 10 guys behind you.”
“Anyone who knew Patrick, whether it was the military or civilian, would be proud to have had him at their back,” Garrett said. “He always was the person who had someone else’s back. You didn’t mess with someone while he was around.”
Reach Fred Mann at 316-268-6310 or email@example.com.