Lieutenant Col. J. Jay Parsons remembers the day the Air Force joined him.

CANTON—Lieutenant Col. J. Jay Parsons remembers the day the Air Force joined him.

Parsons, a Sergeant in the Air Force at the time, had been assigned to Albania to help with the humanitarian crisis in Kosovo caused by the breakup of Yugoslavia but which had been brewing for centuries. He had joined the Air Force nine years before in order to gain experience before becoming a law enforcement officer, to be able to further his education through opportunities offered by the armed forces and to travel to exotic places “on someone else’s dime.”

“You notice the word ‘I’ figured in all of that,” he said.

Posted to a checkpoint to help process refugees fleeing ethnic cleansing, Parsons remembered complaining about being cold and wet and hungry. As he stood at his post, a man came up begging for help for his daughter. When Parsons saw the child, who was about the same age as his own daughter, and the injuries she had received from the conflict, his mind flashed back to his childhood in Canton.

“I realized I never had fear like that,” he remarked. “At that moment the Air Force joined me.”

Parsons noted that was the moment he understood the sacrifice made by veterans of the United States armed forces and what it meant to both the veterans and those the veterans had helped.

Parsons was the keynote speaker at the 2018 Veterans Day Assembly Friday at Canton High School.

Parsons said the veterans in the auditorium who served in the past had no say in their sacrifice, most of them being drafted and given no choice in where they were stationed. Those sacrifices included being away from home and family as well as time and personal safety.
Parsons said he felt it was important for him to be in Canton this Veterans Day, considering an honor to be asked to speak on behalf of the veterans assembled.

In his welcome, Canton High School Principal Michael Lindy said the assembly was serving two purposes — to educate students on the sacrifices made by veterans for the freedoms Americans enjoy and to show gratitude to the veterans for their service and sacrifice.
Students from Westview Elementary took part in the ceremony via videotape, leading the Pledge of Allegiance, reciting the “Veterans Poem” and singing “A Grateful Nation.”

Members of the CHS Madrigal Singers supplied the National Anthem and “America the Beautiful,” with solos by Hunter Varnes and Madison Foreman. Music was also provided by the CHS band, including “Salute to America’s Finest” which recognized each branch of the American military as CHS student Bailey Norton read off each group.

In addition, CHS student Nathan Bobell presented a short essay on the origins of Veterans Day, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

Concluding remarks were made by Assistant Principal Jay Valencia, who thanked everyone who attended, particularly the veterans.

The ceremony was then moved outside to the memorial on the CHS campus and concluded with a 21 gun salute and the playing of “Taps” by CHS student Claire Wheelwright.