James Fitzpatrick (Patrick) Anderson Jr. was raised in South Pasadena and he participated in many Festival of Balloons Parades. He marched for years as a child with the Holy Family Vacation Bible School and later with the Boy Scouts. He even once rode in the parade with a Congressman.
Patrick and his family moved from Alhambra to South Pasadena when he was just 4 years old. He later attended Holy Family School for 8 years and attended Loyola High School in Downtown LA.
Upon his graduation in 1998 Patrick enrolled in the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics in 2002. For his military service Patrick chose flight school and was soon bound for Florida and then Texas to fly rotary wing aircraft (helicopters). He trained on a single engine rotary wing aircraft to earn his “wings of gold” (pilot certification).
After earning his wings Patrick was assigned to his fleet squadron in San Diego where he became an accomplished pilot on the MH-60S helicopter. This aircraft is commonly referred to as the Nighthawk – it’s the Navy’s version of the army’s Blackhawk helicopter. For the next 4 years Patrick flew constantly conducting operations for the Navy. Most of his experience was gained in search and rescue for big deck ships.
Also during this time Patrick was sent on his first overseas deployment. Around 2006 Patrick flew MEDEVAC missions in Iraq and Kuwait – often to the most critical hospital in the region – the Level 3 hospital in Kuwait.
The Army had run out of pilots for MEDEVAC at that time and had turned to the Navy for additional search and rescue pilots. Patrick’s tour of duty in the Middle East saw rescues from training accidents, heat casualties, and also combat injuries.
Patrick told of one particularly important life-saving rescue: “The aircraft had a normal crew with 2 in the back and a corpsman who is trained in emergency medicine. While flying out with the injured soldier the corpsman looked at me and said: “You need to fly faster.” (due to the seriousness of the soldier’s injuries) So I flew faster.” His efforts saved that man’s life.
Patrick estimates that during a 6-7 month period in MEDEVAC rescue in the Middle East he flew 75 rescue missions.
On his final operational tour Patrick was working in air operations on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). This nuclear powered carrier was off the south coast of Iran and also in and out of the Persian Gulf.
Patrick was honorably discharged from active duty in 2012. He now works for the City of Kirkland Fire Department (near Seattle, Washington). The city has around 100 firefighters split across 5 Fire stations. Every firefighter is certified as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and they also conduct wildland firefighting and technical rescue, including a water rescue team.
One year in Kirkland just before Thanksgiving – a man in his 60’s had a heart attack while visiting his financial advisor. The employees had started CPR however by the time that Patrick and his rescue team arrived – the patient’s heart had stopped. Patrick and his team began pumping his chest and shocked him several times with an automatic external defibrillator. The man’s heart began beating again and found a rhythm. This event soon became known as the “Thanksgiving Miracle”.
A week later the revived man’s wife sent a heartfelt “thank you” note to the City asking to meet the team who had saved her husband’s life. The couple later came by the station to thank Patrick and his team personally for their Thanksgiving Miracle.
Patrick, his wife and 4 children currently live in Maple Valley, Washington while Patrick’s parents – Jim and Dolly Anderson – still live over by Trader Joe’s in South Pasadena. In fact, Jim is still closely involved with the Festival of Balloons Parade to this day.
I asked Patrick what the 4th of July means to him now – reflecting back on his upbringing in South Pasadena, through 4 tours of duty and now saving lives in Kirkland. He said: “Independence Day is an awesome time to reflect and share a bit of the significance of the day with others. I think of why we celebrate this country and how unique this country is. I reflect on what we stand for and it all comes back to the flag. I’m also reminded of all the blessings that we have – and that it’s important not to take it for granted.”
I thanked Patrick for his service and asked if he had any final thoughts on South Pasadena. Patrick related this to me: “South Pas was an awesome place to grow up and a very hard place to leave.”