Donna Mack spoke the following words twenty years after her son Jeremiah died, at a National Peace Corps Association event held in in Washington, D.C. in September of 2016.
Compassionate – Dynamic – Curious – Funny – Vibrant – Kind – Generous – Always Smiling
These are some of the words that are repeatedly used by the loved ones and friends of Fallen Peace Corps Volunteers to describe the one they lost. Whenever I have spoken or corresponded with others who have lost a Peace Corps Volunteer, it has always struck me that their words could so easily describe my son Jeremiah as well.
This is because Peace Corps Volunteers are such very special people. Like so many of you, they chose to live life differently, to exchange comfort for purpose, and to believe in something bigger than themselves.
In practical and concrete ways Peace Corps Volunteers improve the lives of the people they serve. Perhaps more importantly, though, they represent America in the very best of ways. They show people in their host communities around the world that Americans care about others, desire change, and are willing to sacrifice.
Though it wasn’t always easy, my son loved the Peace Corps. He found friendship, love, and planned for a future of continued public service.
Most Peace Corps Volunteers come home. They are changed for the better because of their experiences. They return with a sense of purpose and perspective. Some, like my son, made the ultimate sacrifice. Jeremiah did not have the chance to do that third year of service in Niger he’d been approved for, to pursue that graduate degree in international development he had in mind, to marry that girl he fell in love with, or even just to give me that hug I’d been waiting for. But I know that his impact is still felt.
He and the other volunteers who died in service are remembered and loved and honored by all those whose lives they have touched. Just being invited to stand here today in front of all of you tells me that to be true.
I am so very proud of my son Jeremiah.
Almost 20 years have passed since I saw his beautiful smile in person, but I see it every day in my mind.
Thank you for recognizing the contributions of my son and all Fallen Peace Corps Volunteers, and the important place they hold our hearts, as well as in the Peace Corps.