December 25, 2009
 
To my first born son, Tyler,
 
My how the years fly by! Son, you came into this world with your eyes bright and your mind craving all the knowledge you could posses. You challenged me as a mother every day! So strong willed!
 
So many fond memories…like the time at age 4 you laid tacks at the floor of the stairs after watching the movie “Home Alone” and the shock on your face when your Dad stepped into them. What about the time you and Daniel were playing in the pop-up tent upstairs, wanted to go hunting, and stole the newly-made triple layer chocolate cake off the counter. The two of you, ages 3 and 5 took it upstairs for a picnic in the tent. I still laugh when I think of tracing the chocolate upstairs and pulling the tent up. The two of you were covered in chocolate head to toe!
 
You were always ahead of the game. Not perfect, but I saw the potential. You loved music as a baby. You plucked around on the old piano and I made your father furious when I went out a bought a new piano. Today he admits it was the right thing. I remember going in with to buy your first guitar. You always had music in your life! You weren’t afraid to be the football jock which left practice for piano lessons. You really never cared what people thought. That scared me at times though. Your curious mind gave you the reputation of trying to burn down the school when you were bored and wanted to see what nylon would do if melted.
 
Your bright mind led you toward many school opportunities and you chose West Point for the challenge. I remember you saying, “I want to see what I’m made of”. The day your father and I put you on the airplane for New York at age 18 years old was one of the hardest days of my life. I had never seen your father cry like that. I would sit for hours looking at countless photos posted on the West Point website just to get a glimpse of you. We couldn’t see you for 6 weeks. I felt my heart had been pulled out of my chest. You were my oldest!
 
You grew throughout your years at West Point! Your desire and love for travels were fulfilled! You loved other cultures and with your choice of Arabic as a major, you went everywhere. My heart followed you everywhere. I remember you giving me a clock engraved “Tyler’s Time”. I always had to set it hours ahead or hours behind. I could have lost my mind, but I didn’t. You were living on your terms!
 
You graduated with top honors! When you were sworn in as a Second Lieutenant, though I was proud, I always knew what was coming. I kept my fears locked deep inside. Every parent wants their children to live life on their terms honorably, but oh, Tyler, the agony.
 
Last May you flew in from Colorado Springs and Daniel flew in from New York to surprise Anna Laura for her high school graduation. I was so happy to have all three of you together. We exercised together; we had a most wonderful visit. We knew you were to be deployed 5 days later. Son, I will never forget the night you left! I looked at you and tried to absorb every fiber of your being because in my heart I knew your heart! I knew the man you had become. I prayed I was being silly and just emotional but we hugged each other tightly and I felt you tremor. You didn’t want to let go either. You drove away and I fell to my knees in prayer.
 
Son, I prayed for you every day. Sometimes I feel God didn’t love me enough to have heard my prayers. I gave everything I had in my prayers for your safety. The week prior to your death, I felt ill. I wasn’t surprised though. You were a man of God. Your emails prepared me. My hospice job prepared me spiritually. I will never forget our last phone conversation. You had such a lightness in your voice and you were reaching out to help me deal with the soon to be “empty nest”.
 
Son, you took care of me as I had taken care of you. I take honor in knowing you laid your life down for another but the pain of you not being in my presence this Christmas is gut-wrenching. It’s real! You are no longer physically with us any longer! I still can see you sweeping through that door and picking me up off my feet in a bear hug.
 
Tyler…I miss you and I will forever have part of my heart gone. Please son, continue to watch down on us and love us.
 
Like the Eric Clapton song says…”will you know my name, when I get to heaven?” Will you, Tyler? Will you know me?
 
I pray God will use your death to inspire people to him through my life.
 
I love and miss you terribly,
Your forever mother,
Lona Parten
 
Words From Tyler's Family