A badly injured bald eagle found near La Pine in June made national news after a doctor revived him with mouth-to-beak resuscitation.
The eagle, now named Patriot, has made a remarkable recovery from a broken wing, paralyzed leg and more injuries. Although he won't be able to fly again, he can now stand on his own.
Friday afternoon marked a "good-bye" from his vets and community members during a *graduation party" at Sunriver Nature Center.
Before he left, Patriot's story was remembered by the many of the people who played a role in his journey.
"To be able to pick up that magnificent bird and know that the act that we did is going to touch so many lives everywhere just is amazing," said Dodie Witt from La Pine, the woman who first found the injured bald eagle with two of her other family members.
From the start, veterinary technician Jeanette Bonomo joined Dr. Jeff Cooney for Patriot's rehabilitation. They knew his extensive injuries meant he wouldn't be able to be released.
"He's going to Blue Mountain Wildlife," said Bonomo. "Jeff and I work real closely with Lynn (Tompkins). We're almost in contact with her daily, so from the beginning, that's where I wanted him to go."
Another special guest: Kira Neilsen, the 9-year-old Bend girl who started a campaign to donate money and fish for Patriot. She raised over $1,000 for his care.
"It's kind of sad to see him go, but it will be a better life for him," said Neilsen, who aspires to be a veterinarian herself.
Now Patriot will begin his new journey with Tompkins in Pendleton.
"Well, he is really special, because of his story," said Tompkins. "I mean, he's just an amazing bird. And it's just a miracle that he's even alive and able to be healthy. Even though he can't fly, he can still stand."
A symbol of our nation, Patriot has made a big impact and will continue to do that as an educational bird. Friday was not a goodbye, but a farewell.
"We'll miss him," said Bonomo. "We just can't take a drive to Pendleton any day, but the nice thing is that Lynn can send us emails and photos so it's the best outcome that could have happened for him."
Blue Mountain Wildlife Center in Pendleton is the biggest raptor center in the Northwest, run right out of Tompkins' home. They are a non-profit, working off of donations and grants and are asking for the community's help in building a larger, more adequate facility for their cause.
For more information, visit Blue Mountain Wildlife at: http://www.bluemountainwildlife.org/.