Veterans Day is special for Marysville resident Mike Parker because it embodies who he is.
"I grew up. I learned about having pride and honor. I learned about sacrifice," said Parker, an Army veteran.
Veterans Day is special to Parker because it embodies who he is.
"Military was such a big part of my life. I haven't let it go and I'm not going to let it go," he said.
Parker grew up in a small town in Oregon. Now he lives in Marysville, enjoys photography as a hobby and helps coach a football team.
He spent more than 12 years in corrections at the Ohio Reformatory for Women. But he said what he experienced between the time he left Oregon and arrived in Marysville shaped who he is.
In 1987, Parker joined the Army and went to infantry school. In 1989, he was deployed to Panama in Operation Just Cause. He was part of the 508th Airborne Division that patrolled the streets and worked riot control.
He calls the experience, 'intense fighting.'
In 1990, he was deployed with the 82nd Airborne to Saudi Arabia as a part of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. He spent eight months in the desert, going two or three months at a time with no shower, living in a foxhole, covered in plywood and sand. His mission was to liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein's Iraqi forces.
When he came home, he re-enlisted and went back to Panama. He was with a different unit this time and he worked riot control and jungle patrols for a year and a half -- fighting which he calls hand-to-hand combat.
"You train for combat. You train for resistance," Parker said. "Getting an opportunity to do what you trained for is an adrenaline rush, but at the same time, yo''re scared to death.
"I didn't do anything out of the ordinary or anything spectacular. Everything I did was part of my job. It was part of my duty. It was part of taking care of my brothers. I always had their back and I still do to this day."
When the United States went back to Iraq in 1991, Parker was ready to go.
"I wanted to go back. It was just instinct," he said. "That's what I spent seven years doing was preparing for that. As soon as we went back, it was 'I got to go' but I couldn't."
Injuries had forced Parker out of the service. A back injury in Iraq came when he jumped out of a truck, carrying 220 pounds on his back. Parachuting out of planes took a toll on his knees.
Combined, these injuries forced Parker into the civilian world, physically. Mentally, however, he can't let go.
"I'm supposed to go be with my fellow soldiers. You're supposed to go and fight for each other, fight for your soldier beside you," Parker said.
Years of fighting took its toll.
"I'm not ashamed to say I have post-traumatic stress disorder," he said. "I'm not ashamed of it because I know what I went through."
Parker stays active in various veterans' associations. Holidays such as Veterans Day put a spotlight on things he thinks about all the time.
"I spend a lot of time reflecting on what I've done. I spend a lot of time reflecting about those who walked before me," he said.
Today, he enjoys spending time with his family and coaching the next generation of young men values such as discipline, respect, team work, how to treat others and how to behave -- things he said he learned when he grew up quickly in the United States Army.
"You take an oath to defend your country from all enemies, foreign and domestic. You have to take that to heart when in the service," Parker said. "You're not doing it for yourself. You're doing it for the soldier beside you for the people back home, for the next generation."