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    1/5 mourns loss of EOD legend

    1/5 mourns loss of EOD legend

    Photo By Logan Pierce | FORWARD OPERATING BASE JACKSON, Helmand province, Afghanistan - U.S. Marines with 1st...... read more read more



    Story by Cpl. Benjamin Crilly 

    II Marine Expeditionary Force   

    FORWARD OPERATING BASE JACKSON, Afghanistan - A month before the bombing at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, President Ronald Reagan wrote “Some people work an entire lifetime and wonder if they ever made a difference to the world. The Marines don’t have that problem,” in a letter to a Marine who was being deployed to Beirut.

    Gunnery Sgt. Ralph E. “EJ” Pate Jr. knew that he would make a difference everyday when he deployed to Sangin, Afghanistan, as a team chief for Explosive Ordinance Disposal Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, in direct support of 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.

    Pate, the team’s only Senior Explosive Ordinance Disposal Technician, was killed in action June 26. Those he gave his life for honored his heroic and selfless service and sacrifice during a memorial ceremony at Forward Operating Base Jackson, July 11.

    EOD technicians are responsible for disarming improvised explosive devices, mines and other hazardous explosive material after it is found.

    “There are men here today who might not be alive if it wasn’t for Gunnery Sgt. Pate, I count myself in that number,” said Lt. Col. Thomas B. Savage, the battalion commander for 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. “In my view the word hero is used too frequently; it lessens its value. I myself use the word very sparingly, but in this case I believe it is warranted. Gunnery Sgt. Ralph Pate is a hero.”

    Pate embodied the meaning of hero in his execution of a profession that saved lives. Actions speak louder than words and his selection by President George W. Bush to conduct a Secret Service EOD mission is a testament to Pate’s competency.

    “He was a highly respected EOD technician. One who all juniors looked to for guidance, and all seniors gave high trust and high responsibility,” said Staff Sgt. Jonathon C. Key, a Basic EOD Technician who worked under Pate for the past three years as a member of his team. “Simply speaking, he was the best. That’s why he was here to lead his Marines in Sangin.”

    Pate used his wealth of knowledge from seven combat deployments, more than 60 stateside off-base emergency incidents and service as the EOD representative to the Joint EOD Decision Making System to train his team for deployment to arguably the most IED infested area of Afghanistan.

    “He was passionate about what he did. With expertise, eagerness, and dedication he taught us what we needed to survive. Because of that, he has already preemptively saved our lives countless times,” said Key, from Copperhill, Tenn. “That knowledge and passion he had will live on through us and will be passed down to our juniors.”

    Even though they have suffered the loss of their mentor, the technicians of his team continue to answer every call for an EOD team to respond. They do this to honor Pate’s memory, carry on his legacy and complete his mission in Sangin, said Staff Sgt. Christopher P. Lukas, an EOD technician who was assigned to Pate’s team.

    “We have all come to accept that tragedy can strike at any time and push on due to the importance of the job,” said Lukas, from North Little Rock, Ark. “The number of EOD techs still here working today as a result of EJ’s influence, knowledge and ability is a testament to his dedication.”

    “Moreover the number of people who are alive as a direct result of that dedication, influence, ability and knowledge is yet another way EJ has affected the world forever and the lives of people who may not have ever met him,” said Lukas. “I am proud to call him my friend and am a better tech for having been a part of the same family as he is.”

    The EOD community is very close and the technicians in Sangin lost more than a colleague that day. They lost a dear friend who was able make anything more fun, whether it was on or off duty.

    “Never a dull moment with EJ; I think ‘life of the party’ was made for people like him. He didn’t just know how to have a good time; he made it a good time,” said Key.” “One thing I can say for sure, he loved his Harleys and loved to ride. Some of the best times I ever spent with him were simply getting from point A to point B and everything in between. Much like his professional life, he was usually leading the pack, riding from the front.”

    Pate leaves behind a record of service that stands head and shoulders above most along with friends and family who loved him dearly. Countless Marines and sailors will be able to return home because Pate put others before his own interests and selflessly paid the ultimate price so others may live.

    “EJ was loved by most that knew him and dearly loved by those who knew him well,” said Key. “We are better because of him. He is and will always be remembered as a Marine EOD legend. I can promise you that.”

    Pate’s personal awards include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal with combat distinguishing device and two gold stars, Combat Action Ribbon with one gold star, Presidential Unit Citation, Navy Unit Commendation, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal with two bronze stars and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal.



    Date Taken: 07.11.2011
    Date Posted: 07.14.2011 03:27
    Story ID: 73695

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