Patrick Shanafelt says he couldn’t muster much strength after learning a young man he admired had taken his last breath.
“I was informed last Wednesday and for two days, just the ability to walk seemed to have escaped me,” Shanafelt said.
His son, Army Specialist Zachary Shanafelt, was a combat medic.
Shanafelt, 24, started his tour in Afghanistan in 2009. In 2011, he was injured during combat operations.
Since then, he tried to recover from his injuries at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C. The night before Thanksgiving, doctors say he died in his sleep.
Shanafelt who comes from a military family, was a husband and a father who loved helping others.
“Absolutely one of the kindest young men you’re likely meet in your life. He didn’t care if you were big or small, or black or white, ugly or beautiful,” Patrick Shanafelt said.
“He never noticed any of that. He loved everybody for exactly who they were and he treated everyone with kindness,” he added.
“Father couldn’t ask for a better son,” Shanafelt said.
Now the grandfather will take the lead on teaching Zachary’s 13 month old son about his dad.
“I’m gonna tell him he’s got the best dad ever. I’ll tell him everything about his dad,” he said.
He continued, “I’ll tell him how great his dad was and the legacy of his dad through his friends, through his uncles, through myself and through his mother will be something that will live on and that he will have to cherish forever.”
“They say that you want your children to grow up to be better than you are. I can assure you my son grew up to be a far better man in his 24 years, than I have in my 51,” Shanafelt said.
A military service is scheduled for Friday at 11 am. It will be held at the Pederson Funeral Home in Rockford.
A fund has been set up for Shanafelt’s 13 month old son. If you’d like to donate, you can do so through Fifth Third Bank in Zachary Shanafelt’s name.
His family also encourages donating to the Wounded Warriors Project.