U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Lonnie J. Parson died in 2005 when an IED hit his vehicle while on tour in Iraq. His son Lance was 16 years old at the time and says “my father’s sacrifice has meant more to me with each passing year that I mature. He laid down his life for his beliefs and his family.”
Lance joined the Oregon Army National Guard after high school and served one tour in Afghanistan. He says joining the military was a big decision and urges others to understand the significant differences between being a family member of someone in uniform and being in uniform. “My family was supportive when I joined and even more supportive when I deployed,” he explained. “They were worried as always with my father but we all took out our war paint from the closet just the same and dusted it off, ready for another long fight, because we are an Army family.”
Lance learned a lot about himself through his decisions to serve. He says he was surprised by his ability to adapt and persevere and was proud to discover he had grit. “I joined because there were things I had in mind to learn about myself, and for the benefit of my future family. These were things that I think my father inherently knew and that I felt like I would benefit from learning.”
Lance felt strongly connected to his fallen father twice during his service. Once during basic training and again when his platoon gathered to send a fallen soldier home. “I was standing in formation on the flight line saluting a fallen comrade as he was put on a bird home. The last time I experienced such a profound moment in my life was listening to Taps at my own father’s funeral. I never felt so proud and humble to be in uniform.”
With the help of Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation, Lance is currently a senior studying Environmental Sciences at Oregon State University. He says Fallen Patriots provided him opportunities to ‘learn what is important to become a man like my father was.’ Lance is expected to graduate in 2019.
Nearly 20,000 military children have lost a parent in the line of duty over the past 35 years. Fallen Patriots is working to identify and support every child in need through raising funds and awareness of the mission.