The annual Veterans Day program at Greenon High School is probably longer than most, but they have their reasons — for one, the entire student body shook the hand Monday of every veteran in attendance.
One by one, 600 students extended their hands as a gesture of thanks to visiting veterans old, young and in-between.
“It felt real good,” freshman Jake Richards said afterward.
Greenon has been holding its school-wide Veterans Day assembly for seven years, taking most of the morning to honor those who sacrificed either their lives or their youth.
A slide show featuring every Greenon graduate who ever answered the call of duty — and more than a handful who gave all — seemingly ran forever, a testament to the school’s love of country.
The senior class also mustered up exactly $1,040.50 for the Wounded Warrior Project, a national charity that may ultimately end up helping some of their own in the years to come.
The Wounded Warrior Project was given center stage at this year’s program, with guest speaker Cynthia Jo Parsons extolling the virtues of an organization founded a decade ago to assist this generation’s wounded, whether their injuries are visible or invisible.
“This is my therapy,” said Parsons, a Fostoria resident. “This is the only therapy that works for me.”
Parsons told the story of how her son, Shane, lost both legs and suffered a severe anoxic brain injury, not to mention two cardiac arrests, after an improvised explosive device tore into his lead Humvee in Rhamadi, Iraq, in 2006.
Even being an ER nurse did little to prepare Parsons to either see her son in a hospital bed, with a tube protruding from his brain, or to help him transition back to civilian life.
“There was nothing that could prepare me for my journey with my son,” she said.
In a previous era, Parsons would’ve ended up addressing a Memorial Day assembly, but her son is among the thousands who’ve survived once-lethal injuries thanks to advancements in technology and training.
In past wars, Parsons said, for every soldier killed, 1.7 soldiers were wounded. In today’s wars, she said, seven soldiers are wounded for every one death.
According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Defense, 6,695 service men and women have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, while 51,413 have been wounded in action.
Parsons, who now speaks on behalf of the Wounded Warrior Project, credits the charity with helping her son take back his life.
The flashbacks and night terrors remain, but Sgt. Shane Parsons, who also attended Monday’s assembly, saying little to nothing, is now an assistant football coach at his high school alma mater in northwest Ohio.
He also has relearned how to read, and soon will be a certified scuba diver.
Cindy Parsons also made sure to highlight war’s invisible wounds, most notably post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
She shared a story about how she helped a wounded veteran get through an anxiety attack and off a recent flight they were on together. The veteran, she said, had asked a woman next to him if she could leave the seat empty.
“Her reply,” Parsons said, “was, ‘You have two arms and two legs. You’re not a wounded veteran.’”
Cathy Tankersley, a Springfield resident who attended Monday’s program at Greenon, appreciated hearing from Parsons.
“It brought a lot to my mind,” she said, “and how I’ll react in the future.”