To My Favorite Oldest Son:

Where does a mother begin? You were my fourth child. By then your oldest sister was saying not
another one.

You came into this world suddenly. I told the nurses they needed to go ahead and call the doctor.
They examined me and said no there is plenty of time. They came back a short time later and
again I told them they better go ahead and call the doctor so once again they did their
examination. This time they said no it’s too late. You were born in the labor room (back then they
had labor rooms and delivery rooms separately). The nurse delivered you. The nurse said I had
a healthy baby boy. I said no I only had girls. I made them hold you up so I could see for myself.
From there I spent countless sleepless nights, not because you did not sleep but because I had
seen a news story on Sudden Infant Death while I was pregnant and it said it occurred more often
in males than females. I was so afraid that you would stop breathing. I would sit by your crib just
to watch you breath. We both mad it through.

You were a quiet child. But how could you have been anything else you had 3 older noisy sisters.
Dottie was seven and soon learned how to change diapers, Kathleen was 3 and Heather was just
over a year old. Once you learned to walk, you were their shadow. You followed them
everywhere, especially Heather. People often though you two were twins. I remember when
Heather went off to kindergarten; you waited by the door until she got home. It stayed that way
throughout school. You always followed the girls. You were never real fond of school. Your first
day of kindergarten would set the stage for the next 13 yrs. You came home sick that 1st day.
The second day you tried again to come home sick but I made you stay. This would set a pattern
for all of your school years. The school nurse knew you so well. She would call me and say he’s
really sick this time and you would walk home and call me when you got there. I remember one
time you were sick and you said you did feel like going to school. I was off that day and
apparently you felt better that afternoon so you and I looked up words in the dictionary. You
learned to spell ubiquitous and you learned the meaning. You did not stay home sick from school
for a long time. We laughed about that for years.

Your teachers loved you. You smiled all the time and you were happy. I expressed concern to
your grade school counselor that your grades were not as good as your sisters. I was told not to
compare you to your sisters. They said you were different but you would do well and you did. You
graduated Honor Graduate, National Honor Society, Boy's State Delegate.

You loved being a Boys State Delegate. You called me everyday and begged me to come and
get you. I’d tell you to give it one more day and call me tomorrow if it wasn’t any better. You did
and I told you the same thing the next day. You out smarted me though, you called Kathleen, who
was going to school in Terre Haute and she picked you up early.

At the young age of 5 you decided you wanted to play sports. I signed you up for T-ball. After the
1st practice you wanted to quit. I told you no, you do not just quit you had to finish what you
started. A lesson you carried with you through out your life.
You didn’t play many sports until high school. You followed your sisters and ran cross-country
and track. You loved both sports and you loved Coach Kingery. You especially loved the fall
practices when Coach would have homegrown watermelons waiting for everyone after your runs.
You did well in both sports. You made it to regionals in track along with our brother on the relay
team. You qualified for regional in cross-country. Your senior year, on the day of your regional
meet, your sister went into labor. I took her to the hospital and the nurses told me she was in
early states of labor. I sat with her until it was time for your meet. I was assured the baby would
still be awhile. I hurried to your meet and watched you run. I gave you a hug and congratulated
you and hurried back to the hospital. Your niece Kelly had already been born.

You spent many hours at track practice. You loved running and high jump. I loved to watch you
jump. You decided you wanted to follow Coach K into coaching so after graduation; you coached
the middle school cross-country team for a year.

You seemed to grow up so fast. You were always concerned with pleasing everyone, especially
me. You tried your best to protect me and keep me from worrying. You applied and were
accepted at Auburn University. They did not have any dorm. Rooms available. I would not let you
live in an apartment so you did not go. May be I should have.

One day you asked me what I would do if you got a tattoo. I told you I would kick you out of the
house. I never thought much else about it. One day you were asleep on the couch and your t-
shirt had slipped up. There staring at me was a tiger on your arm. You woke up and saw me
standing there and you covered it up. I never said a word I just left the room. For at least two
days I believe you were afraid I would kick you out. What you didn’t know was that was when I
realized you had grown up. It was the 1st time you had done something against my wishes.

It wasn’t too much later you came to me and told me your best friend Pat had joined the Army and
he had talked with you about joining. You asked me what I thought. I told you I did not like the
idea and until you could look me in the eye and tell me you could shoot someone I did not want
you to enlist. Five months later you came to me and said you could and you had enlisted. That
was the second time I knew you had grown up.

You went in Nov. 1, 2000. You were upset only because you knew it was close to my birthday and
you felt bad for not being with me. The Army did you good. You walked proud and had
confidence that you never had before. I went to pick you up from Ft. Leonard Wood for the 1st
time; you had to come up to me because I did not recognize you. It could have been the shaved
head and the black glasses that I believe you called BCG (birth control glasses). I remember
many conversations we had about the Army. The only frustration you ever expressed was they
moved at their own pace and I believe that was slower than yours. I called you my soldier. We
had an agreement you reported to me. I had explained I paid more in taxes then you earned in a
year so you were my personal soldier. I told you to tell your company commander that you only
had to take orders from me. You said you would but you probably never did. I asked you if you
wanted me to call our senators and tell them the same thing and you said no you would let those
in charge know. I offered to call the President; again you laughed and declined by offer.

I remember the 1st time you told me you had to go to Iraq. You made sure I was sitting down. You
were worried about me not about yourself. I prayed that would change their mind and they did.
They rescinded your orders. You came home for the holidays last year and you told me you
would be going over seas in Feb. or Mar. I said no they would change their mind. In January you
told me again. I said no they would change their mind. The same conversation in February but
then March they did not change their mind. You shipped out. You called me before they put you
in lock down and said don’t worry, you weren’t worried but you knew I would anyway. I told you I
was getting grayer each day and it was because of you. Your reply was to stop worrying and to
color my hair.

Everyone at work knew when you called and they asked about you constantly. The office
assistants knew to find me if you called and I wasn’t at my desk. Everyone knew how important
you were to me.

One day you found time to go shopping. One day I received a call from a jewelry store. I called
you and asked what your were buying. You told me a watch. I told you it must be an expensive
watch. You said it was. I asked you what you were going to do with this watch and you said give it
to a friend. I asked you to let me know if they liked it and you said you would. A short time later I
asked if your friend liked the watch and you said yes she had kept it. You were so happy Lisa
said yes! That was to be the next chapter of your life. First there was a year in Iraq.

I remember the many conversations we had when you called. Every one started out Hi Momma
and I would say hi sweetie what are you doing. You’d always reply not much, just got back from
my patrol. You asked about every one of your brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles,
grandparents and dad and step dad. You did not want to talk about what was going on over there
only about what was happening here. You wanted to stay in touch. Only when I asked would you
even mention anything about Iraq and then only the good things. The kids and some friendly
people but never the dangers. Again you did not want me to worry.

I was go glad when you got to come home on leave. You were happy and content, excited about
the future. You went to see Coach K and Mr. Strauss. You went to a cross-country meet and to a
football game. You got to see old friends.

One day, while on leave you told me you had something to tell me. I asked what and you said you
had reenlisted in June. I asked you why and your reply “because I am good at it”. No other
explanation was needed. You were happy you and Lisa were getting married July 2, 2005 and
then off to Hawaii. But 1st, 6 more months in Iraq. You called me from the airport to let me know
you were getting ready to board the plane. You sounded sad but you said the time would go
quickly. The 1st 6 months did and so would the next 6 months. We ended our conversation as we
had ended all others. I told you I loved you and you said I love you Momma. I told you to be
careful and you said you would. I also told you I was proud of you. The rest is history.

I will miss your one dimple and your beautiful brown eyes. I will even miss those ugly tiger tattoos.
If I could I would trade places with your but I can’t.

The outpouring of heartfelt gratitude for your service has been amazing. Your company
commander Capt. Pintor called me last night from Iraq. He said he had to talk with me and let me
know how the entire group was saddened by your death. He especially wanted me to know that
there were two your men with you at the time of the explosion. Brian Howard and Bentley Joseph.
He went on to explain these were two of your men that you had trained from the beginning and
because of what you had trained them, they were able to survive. He also went on to say that
Joseph was working on getting he American citizenship and you were helping him reach that goal.
He promised that they would complete that mission for you.

The time has come to say good-bye. Give Pepaw a hug and kiss for me. I know you are both
telling stories. You will always be in my heart but you are in god’s hands now. You will serve him
well and he will protect your from now on.