I want to share a memory which is so important to me. When you graduated from the University of Tennessee, we had lunch together. You told me that some of your peers were going to Irak to fight in that war to ensure freedom for future generations. You stated that you could not kill anyone, so you decided to give back and serve in another way. We were enjoying our lunch at a cafe on Parkwest Boulevard, a few blocks away from my work. This was most unusual for me to leave the office for lunch. I will never forget what you told me there. You said you had joined the Peace Corps to give back to the world for all of the opportunities for success that were given to you. I was quite taken back, but most certainly understood your motivation. Your spirit is so peaceful. Your kindness resonates with your decisions and actions. I am using the present tense for those two sentences because the statements were true then and are certainly true and authentic now. I was speechless for a bit. I said I understood.

After a few months, while you worked with your brother, Erich, you prepared to depart for Uganda. The day arrived for your departure to go across the world with only a huge back pack and new comfortable clothing that you Dad bought for you to travel in. I stood there at the Magee Tyson airport walkway to hug you and kiss you goodbye. This image is etched in my mind forever. Once again the present tense, as I am seeing you now in my mind’s eye with tears again. I was so proud of you, Michael.

I spent the next two years in quiet Monday mornings at 5:00 a.m. on my knees praying at the Adoration Chapel at our church, St. John Neumann in Farragut Tennessee. I trusted that you would be safe. I whispered a prayer every day, that made me realize that other parents were dealing with their adult children in the military life facing death and injury, while my Son was also in danger of another sort. But I believed that you were safer where you were stationed in Uganda. I know there were dangers and rebels hiding there. You used your intelligence and good choices to remain safe.

You painted murals to help the people there to learn about AIDS disease. I would love to see those murals. How amazing it was to have had influenced so many people with positive direction. You managed to provide computers and the wiring to help the children learn in their schools even when time and time again, the copper wiring was taken down.

Fortunately, you found a way to call me from Uganda to let me hear your voice and talk about what you were doing each week. I was able to send packages of food to you. The delicacies of Spam and Tuna were your staples. The simple life. The amazing life. The perpetual impact of your service was remarkable and outstanding.

You found a treasure there. In your exercise of giving back, your altruistic spirit led you to another. In this far away place filled with adventure and hard work, you found your soul mate. The gift of yourself brought

the gift of love to you. Congratulations, Michael. You are my gift also. Happy Birthday, Son!