University of Tennessee Student Receives Graduation Surprise (2009)
In a few moments we will witness the conferral of commissions for arts and sciences graduates who will be entering the United States Armed Forces. As we prepare for this commissioning, we realize that many of you–our graduates and guests–have family members serving on active duty in the military. And we would like to recognize one such graduate in particular. Would Ms. Jennifer Willis please stand? Ok, Jennifer, please keep standing. Jennifer is graduating in interdisciplinary programs, and will be working at a therapeutic day school for children following her graduation. And she had no idea we would be recognizing her in this way. However, her family contacted my office to let us know that this celebratory day would be a bit bittersweet for her, as she is celebrating this milestone without her father who is currently serving in Afghanistan, and has been doing so for fifteen months. Prior to this tour, he served in Iraq for one year, and Jennifer has not seen him since a brief visit this past November. Well, that is, until today. [applause] Thank you all for welcoming Staff Sergeant Timothy Willis. Sgt. Willis knew he couldn’t afford to miss this most important day for his daughter. So his chain of command arranged for him to go on leave a bit earlier than Jennifer expected so that he could share this experience with her. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in applauding the Willis family one more time, and thanking Sgt. Willis.