Friends who had served with Mike Parrott, the CSU facilities worker killed by a sniper in Iraq last month, remembered the fallen soldier as a man guided by passionate love of life, country and family.
"Mike taught me that loving each other is the standard," said Sgt. Major Greg Bennick , holding back tears while describing Parrott, who was under his command in Kuwait during the first Gulf War in 1991. "His love was incredible."
Parrott enjoyed chiding people. As part of his let's-see-how-far-I-can-go nature, he would break many Islamic customs – for example, looking at Muslim women's eyes – but for some reason, the locals were endeared by him, Bennick said.
"Somehow, those people weren't threatened by him," he said. "He loved everybody."
Friends, soldiers and coworkers alike who attended the Friday afternoon memorial in the Lory Student Center's West Ballroom seemed to agree on one thing: Mike Parrott was a rare bird.
He rode his bike to work from Timnath to CSU, leaving before sunrise. He loved his country, but hated the war in Iraq. He had an interest in guns, but despised hunting. He loved reading everything from Plato and Voltaire to Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut.
In fact, he used to read four books a week, said Sgt. Casey Henry , a Wyoming National Guard soldier who was part of a team led by Parrott.
"He was the chain that held us together," Henry said. "He was one of the most influential people in my life."
Glenn Abele , CSU employee and long-time friend of Parrott, said the Canton, N.C.-native convinced him to start running. When the pair would run together, Parrott would shout Army cadences at his buddy.
"Why are you stopping? My grandmother wouldn't be so tired," Parrott would say.
"Mike is the only one I know who can run eight miles up a hill at a very fast pace and never stop talking," Abele said. "I could hardly breathe."
Although a drill sergeant tough as nails, Parrott used to cry watching "Old Yeller" and sometimes even during TV commercials that were sad, said Meg Corwin , Parrott's wife of 19 years and a CSU instructor.
He was remembered as a man filled with humor. His supervisor at CSU recalled when Parrott returned from his previous stint in Iraq and requested pay for overtime. Specifically, for the one year spent looking for weapons of mass destruction.
Parrott's patriotism didn't end on the battlefield. He was an intellectual who was dedicated to upholding the principles not of any party, but of the nation's founding fathers, Corwin said prior to the memorial.
His politics leaned heavily left, but he would never tow the party line.
"Whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, if you value the ideals of America more than party, in my mind and in my husband's mind, you're a good person," she said. "Our founding fathers didn't create this country for Republicans or Democrats. They created it for the good of all Americans."
More than 300 people, including several students from Corwin's political science class, attended the service.
As the memorial came to a close and friends lined up to offer their condolences to Corwin, Norman Greenbaum's 1970 one-hit wonder, "Spirit in the Sky," filled the ballroom, chosen by the deeply religious Parrott for such an occasion.
The lyrics said it for him:
"Goin' up to the spirit in the sky, that's where I'm gonna go when I die."