Tue May 23, 2006
Lake Havasu City Soldier Dies in Iraq
By Laurel Druley
Lake Havasu City, AZ – Patrick Tinnell was accustomed to harrowing stunts. As a BMX bicycle rider he had even jumped over an elephant once.
Last month (4/19) he was positioned as a scout leading a troupe of vehicles when he was killed. Tinnell, whose death saved the lives of four others, won a purple heart among other honors.
But more than a hero his mother Debbie Tinnell will remember him as a devoted son.
TINNELL: He loved to tease me. He teased me until I couldn't stand it. At the same time I knew he loved me with all of his heart. I knew that he made sure everyday he told me he loved me when he could. He was my rock.
When she dropped him off at the Phoenix airport to go to basic training, she tried to talk him out of joining the Army.
TINNELL: I said I was hoping you'd change your mind and get back in this car and he said, no mom this is something I want to do.' I said, do a good job like I've always taught you. Do your best.' He said, that's what I'll do mom.
' And that's what he did.
He was a handsome young man who wore many tattoos most of them showing his love for BMX riding. Tinnell's father and brother are in jail. But he found refuge at the local bike shop as a teenager. Glenn Glass owned the bike shop where Tinnell spent so much of his time. He says the kids at the bike shop - many of them troubled -- were like a family.
GLASS: It's really like taking a piece out of you and missing an arm or a leg. That's how much a lot of these kids now young adults counted on this young man.
Glass says three of Tinnell's friends, who are also serving in Iraq, have requested to switch to his infantry to honor their friend and his death.
GLASS: He literally saved lives while putting his own life in harms way and I gotta say I told ya so. He proved many wrong and God bless him for proving me right.
Before he joined the army Tinnell worked for George's Pest Control. His boss George Doucette (do-SET) says once you got passed the tattoos, you saw a good honest kid. Doucette talked to Tinnell about Iraq when he was home for a recent visit.
DOUCETTE: What affected him the most he couldn't help em he couldn't do anything for em they were destroyed the Iraqi people it just always affected him that he could be a soldier and do everything so proficiently but they could only do so much.
More than a thousand people attended Tinnell's funeral. About 30 of his friends from the bike shop rode their bikes to the there. He was given full military honors. Doucette says when the casket was lowered into the ground, the device supporting the coffin broke and it began to fall into the grave. Members of the Army and those watching rushed to stop it from crashing.
DOUCETTE: But if you think of Pat he would always have to crash a few times before he got a trick right he would come in on Monday before I get it right.
It took several people but the casket was lowered successfully.
For Arizona Public Radio, I'm Laurel Druley in Lake Havasu City.