WASHINGTON -- When Jeremy Carr volunteered at a Beaver County chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America, he asked his mother whether President Barack Obama would be proud of him.
Raised in a military family, Jeremy Carr always wanted to serve his country. But Mr. Carr, 23, cannot join the armed forces because he has Down syndrome.
After helping the chapter clean a highway last spring, Mr. Carr insisted that his mother write Mr. Obama to ask if he was proud nonetheless.
During a Veterans Day address yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery, the president gave Mr. Carr his answer.
"Well, Jeremy, I want you to know: Yes, I am proud of you," Mr. Obama said in the speech. "I could not be prouder of you, and your country is proud of you."
"And Jeremy's example -- one young man's example -- is one that we must all now follow," he added.
Mr. Carr's mother, Teresa, was participating in a Veterans Day parade in Beaver as the president read excerpts of her letter. She served as an X-ray technician during the Vietnam War.
"I received a call last night from one of the president's speechwriters, saying he had talked to the president about the letter and wanted my permission to use it in his speech," she said. "He didn't know if he'd actually use it at all, but I said that was fine if they were able to."
Serving as part of the parade, Ms. Carr didn't hear the remarks live.
"I think I might cry," she said after listening to a transcript. "That's wonderful."
For Mr. Carr, the public recognition is a vindication of sorts.
"A lot of his cousins are in the military, and they've all been to Afghanistan, Iraq," Ms. Carr said. "Sometimes, he'll name one of his cousins and say 'I want to go to the Army like him,' and we have to explain why he can't do that."
Congressman Jason Altmire met Ms. Carr at a veterans' lunch after the parade.
"She was most excited for Jeremy and getting a thrill for something for the rest of his life," said Mr. Altmire, D-McCandless. "He's done as much as he can do for the cause, and he was wondering if anybody was paying attention and recognizing what he was doing. To have the president of the United States give that speech and tell that story, its something he'll be able to see video for the rest of his life to know it happened because of him."
Mr. Carr watched the speech from his group home in Salem, Ohio. In addition to helping veterans, Mr. Carr's other lifelong passion is Steelers football.
Ms. Carr and her other son visited Pittsburgh to do the Polar Plunge one winter, to raise money for the Special Olympics. Mr. Carr came to watch, until he noticed that Jerome Bettis was the emcee.
"At that point, he didn't really care we were jumping in the river in the middle of December and was happy Jerome was there. He always calls Bettis 'his boy.' "
After hearing about the speech from the congressman and all of her family members, Ms. Carr was excited to watch it for herself when she finally had the chance.
"I just appreciate that [Mr. Obama] realizes that even though there are some situations where the person themselves can't be in the military and serve that way, there are a lot of people who still want to help, and Jeremy is one of those people."
Drew Singer: firstname.lastname@example.org or 610-213-8033.