With words marked by both pain and pride, Otoe County Sheriff’s Department Deputy and United States Military Veteran James Parson provided a stirring account to the students and faculty at the Syracuse-Dunbar-Avoca Middle School gym at the Veterans Day program on Monday morning.
Parson’s third-person accounting of his own story was moving, but was not meant to draw attention to the speaker.
Parsons told his story  as an example of the countless narratives which lead young men and women to make a decision to join the United States Military.
He challenged the students on Monday to hear his story but also to open their ears to the stories of veterans and to open their eyes to the service of those veterans.
By providing a word of thanks and by opening up to the stories of willing veterans, the students would be demonstrating appreciation to those who have served their country. That is, after all, what Veterans Day is about.
Back to Parson’s story, because it’s definitely one worth telling.
Parsons told the story of a young man who lost his father in high school and then lost his mother right after graduating high school.
He told of the pain those losses caused and the destructive decisions they inspired, all the way  up to considerations of suicide.
The military, Parsons said, gave him another option. He pursued it, and,  in doing so, Parsons said he realized he was not alone. The United States Military is made up of many people working together to serve a higher purpose.
Inspired, Parsons said he restarted his life. As a result, he is now a happily married man with a  wife and a family.
Through the process of telling the story Parsons voice cracked. Such a personal story is hard to tell.
And some veterans, Parsons said, won’t want to tell their stories.
Just the idea that someone wants to hear and that someone appreciates the service of a veteran, Parsons said, can be enough.
“Don’t let a veteran’s story fall into a wrinkle of time—never to be heard,” said Parsons.
Following Parson’s address, a number of junior high and high school students were honored for their participation in the Patriot’s Pen and Voice of Democracy Essay Contests.
The top three finishers in the Patriot’s Pen contest, a junior high essay contest, were, in third place, earning $25, Emma Panko; in second place, earning $50, Ava Swift; and, earning first place with $100 and a chance to represent the school at the district competition, Jackson Nordhues.
The top three finishers in the Voice of Democracy, a high school essay contest, were, in third place, earning $50, Brooklyn Nordhues; in second place, with $75, Megan Richardson; and, in first place, earning $125 and a chance to represent the school at the district competition, Emily Beyer.
Themes for this year’s essay contests were, for Patriot’s Pen, “Why I Honor the American Flag,” and, for Voice of Democracy, “Why My Vote Matters.”
Music at the Monday program was provided by the S-D-A band and chorus.
Tessa Varney and Jackson Zastera were the student presenters.
Wilbur DeGolyer, Donna Crownover and Carol Wallman represented veteran organizations during the essay awards segment.
And Karron Johnson provided sign language for the program.
Following the conclusion of the program, attending veterans were invited to join students for a special breakfast in the S-D-A commons.