SARASOTA, Fla. (Aug 20, 2011) — Army Spc. 4 Patrick Lay’s body was greeted by more than 200 people, holding American flags, as he came home for the last time, arriving at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport on Saturday.
Many who did not know Lay, 21, came to pay their last respects to a local hero who was one of five soldiers killed on Aug. 11 in Afghanistan by an improvised explosive device, while on a combat operation in the Kandahar province.
Lay, who started his first tour of duty in March, was a member of the elite U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, and was stationed in southern Afghanistan.
A Bradenton native, Lay was escorted by Manatee County Sheriff deputies as the motorcade of family, friends, and strangers, made the trip to Sarasota’s National Cemetery, where Lay was buried with full military honors.
Lay was engaged to his high school sweetheart, Joann Steiff, and planned to get married next year. He graduated from Braden River High School, where he played football. Lay planned to pursue a career in engineering after his tour of duty was complete.
“My son gave his life for his country so we can live free and continue to have what we have,” Stefenie Hernandez, Lay’s mother, told the Bradenton Herald after she was told of his death on Friday.
In the short time Lay was in Afghanistan, he had already earned a Purple Heart for combat injuries from a previous roadside IDE, “demonstrated heroics self-sacrifice.”
After regaining consciousness, he refused treatment, and ordered the medics to help his friend who was critically injured. He stayed by his friend’s side in the hospital, abandoning his wounds, until he was ordered into another room. His friend died from his wounds.
According to Fort Drum Public Affairs Office, Lay’s other awards included: the Army Commendation Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; Afghanistan Campaign Medal; the Global War on Terrorism Medal; the NATO Medal; the Army Service Ribbon; the Overseas Service Ribbon; and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
Last week, Sarasota-Bradenton area finished mourning the death of another resident killed in action. Brian Bill, a Sarasota resident, was one of the Navy Seals that was killed when his Chinook helicopter crashed, killing 30 other Americans. Bill was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Other soldiers killed with Lay where: Sgt. Edward J. Frank II, 26, from Yonkers, N.Y.; Sgt. Jameel T. Freeman, 26, of Baltimore; Spc. Jordan M. Morris, 23, of Stillwater, Okla.; and Pfc. Rueben J. Lopez, of Williams, Calif.
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