Getting Things Done And Taking Care Of Families: A Gold Star Mother Reflects On Her Life As An Army Spouse

Sheila Patton


Sheila (Ryder) and Greg Patton both grew up in Indiana. She was raised in Vincennes, and he was from Bicknell about 16 miles away. Both families had a tradition of military service. Greg was serving as a police officer, and Sheila was a reporter covering a story in Bicknell. Sheila caught his eye, and he asked her for a date. Six months later, they were married, and about two weeks after that, Greg joined the Army. Sheila received a crash course in being an “Army Wife” from Greg’s parents. Greg’s dad was a retired Army Major, and his mother had served as a WAC. Sheila loved being an Army spouse, but it was not always easy, and she learned that you have to “work hard to make it work.” Greg’s career started in C Company, 3rd Ranger Battalion before moving on to the 82nd Airborne Division and later the 10th Mountain Division. Stints at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) punctuated his troop time. After attending the Sergeants Major Academy, he reported to Ft. Campbell in the early 2000s. Throughout his career, Greg deployed four times, serving in Saudi Arabia, Iraq twice, and Afghanistan. Throughout Greg’s time in the Army, Sheila was actively involved in FSG / FRG (Family Support Group / Family Readiness Group). In the early days, Sheila raised eyebrows because, as a Specialist’s wife, she was engaging with the spouses of First Sergeants, Sergeants Majors, and Officers. Undeterred, she was a bulldog, taking care of families and helping them get the privileges and benefits they deserved. “When they got Greg, they got me,” and “Team Patton” was a force to be reckoned with. Sheila highlights the importance of family volunteers and developed the concept of being “married to the military.” Sheila and Greg had three children, Jimmy, Cliff, and Megan, and she describes their personalities. Jimmy followed in Greg’s footsteps and joined the Army in 2004. Shortly after joining the Army, he met and married Beatrice, and they had a daughter Ceci. By the time Jimmy had been in for six years, he was a Staff Sergeant in B Company, 3rd Ranger Battalion. He loved serving in the Army and taking care of Soldiers, but 8 deployments had taken their toll. On 17/18 April 2010, Jimmy was killed on a high-profile mission when the helicopter he was riding in crashed in “brownout” conditions, and even though he was strapped in, the helicopter rolled and landed on him. Becoming a Gold Star Mother gave Sheila a new Army family to take care of, those who have lost a loved one in the service of the nation. Serving others is how Sheila copes with the loss that she feels. In this interview, Sheila talks about her relationship with Greg and their family. She describes working with Gold Star Families and how they support each other. She discusses climbing Gold Star Peak in Chugach, Alaska, and working with the Three Rangers Foundation and Leap of Faith. She shares how her family reacted to Jimmy’s death. Sheila increased her efforts as a volunteer and Greg returned to combat in Afghanistan to take care of his Soldiers. She reflects on her notification process and how she learned if it was Greg or Jimmy who had been killed. She highlights that there is “nothing more important than human relationships,” and urges Gold Star Families to support each other and not be “destroyed by loss.” Sheila chooses to honor Jimmy by celebrating his life, not dwelling on his death.


name Sheila Patton
specialty Gold Star Mother