'He loved life'

Friend says Aloha Marine Corps Capt. Chris Pate who was killed in Iraq 'used every minute'
by: Submitted photo, Marine Corps Capt. Christopher T. Pate, left, with friends Alex Sutton, center, and Jon Reali, right.

Alex Sutton will long remember his best friend, Capt. Christopher T. Pate, as someone who didn't take life in small pieces - he tore off large chunks.

Pate, 29, died Friday in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, the result of injuries suffered from an improvised explosive device that blew up while he and fellow soldiers were on combat operations against anti-Iraq forces.

'He was a unique person, in every sense of the phrase 'larger than life,' Sutton said. 'He's been my best friend since about fourth grade.'

Pate grew up in Beaverton where he attended Elmonica Elementary School, Five Oaks Middle School and Aloha High School. He spent his junior and senior years at Oregon Episcopal School, where he graduated in 1995.

Although the two took different routes in high school - Sutton graduated from Jesuit High School - they still kept in touch, maintaining their friendship during two decades.

Sutton, a 29-year-old Portland attorney, said the two were climbing partners, having in the past scaled Rocky Butte and skied up the summit of Mount St. Helens. They also spent time scuba diving in the Puget Sound area.

Calling Pate 'ridiculously smart,' Sutton said Pate could have done anything he wanted. Pate's father, Jerry, is a successful businessman who lives in Florida, and that certainly could have been his future as well.

But Pate was someone who would not, or could not, stand still.

'You couldn't keep Chris behind a desk with a set of leg irons,' said Sutton. 'He needed to be climbing or racing or just devouring his existence.'

As his friendship with Pate grew, Sutton said he came to realize that simply being in his friend's presence made himself and others better people.

A short time after graduating with a degree in international business from the University of Puget Sound in 1999, Pate joined the Marines.

For a brief time, Sutton too thought about enlisting. While he didn't, he later attended Pate's commissioning ceremony.

'I never have seen a kid more proud than he was at his commissioning,' said Sutton. 'He was beaming, ecstatic. It was a defining moment.'

Sutton said Pate, who served as both a terminal air controller and intelligence officer, treated Marine boot camp like it was summer camp. He was promoted to captain in 2004.

Sutton said it was always obvious to him that Pate enjoyed his life in the military.

'He loved what he did and he had no regrets,' Sutton said.

When Sutton got married last September, Pate was one of his groomsmen.

Pate recently became engaged to Margaret Stearns, a woman he first met while the two attended Oregon Episcopal School.

The last time he saw his friend alive was when he flew to Portland a couple of months ago.

'He came basically to announce his engagement,' said Sutton, who was in Portland International Airport getting ready to fly to California when he heard from him.

Fortunately, Sutton was able to catch up with Pate just before the officer flew back to North Carolina.

On Friday, Sutton received news of Pate's death in disbelief, leaving a puddle of tears on the floor.

He always considered Pate bulletproof.

'He just loved life and used every minute,' said Sutton. 'There just should have been 60 more years.'