“If there’s one thing that’s held true my entire life, it’s that I wanted to stand up for my country. Afghanistan is where I was given the opportunity to do just that,” says 28-year-old Ian Parkinson. He was inspired by his family’s long history of military service: father and uncles, Vietnam-era veterans; grandfathers, World War II veterans; great-grandfathers, World War I – extending all the way down to family members serving in the American Revolution. Watching “Saving Private Ryan” growing up sparked an indelible passion for the American military and history. “There was something about combat I was drawn to, despite the inherent risk,” he said. On June 6, 2011, Parkinson lost both legs above the knees, and had severe upper body injuries, when he encountered an improvised explosive device (IED). No other soldiers were severely wounded.
Back when Parkinson was 16, his 17-year-old brother died, so his parents were very reluctant to risk losing another son. “I promised them I’d only do one three-year enlistment.” He joined the Army when he was 19, serving in Korea and deploying to Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division. He acknowledged he stretched his time to four years, joking that he probably would have stayed longer, “but an infantryman missing that many parts isn’t in high demand.” His decorations include the Purple Heart, Airborne wings, two Army Commendation Medals, and a Combat Infantry Badge.
Parkinson’s parents were able to stay in San Antonio at the Fisher House for their son’s major surgeries. In hindsight, the young soldier wonders if he “jinxed it.” Prior to enlisting, he play-acted what it would be like if he lost an eye or a limb in war. In truth, it was incredible forward thinking, which is a critical quality for all service members. He said he “doesn’t care at all” that he lost his legs – and even continues to skateboard as a hobby. “My center of gravity has changed, but at its core, skateboarding is skateboarding,” says Parkinson. “Plus, it’s great exercise.”
Every day, Parkinson continues to serve and motivate others. He’s a web developer with a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Information Technology from Arizona State University, finance officer for the Military Order of Purple Heart, Chapter 790, state junior vice commander, as well as a motivational speaker, focusing on ownership. “I made this decision, I knew what was ahead,” he says. “I did feel bad that someone else had to pick up the slack, and stand an extra guard duty, when I wasn’t there anymore.”
Nominator Peter Haas says, “I can think of no better example than Ian of an American serving with distinction and honor, asking nothing in return, and giving more than could ever be expected.”
Parkinson simply says, “With the right attitude, it doesn’t have to stop anyone, ever.”
We hope you will join us at the 22nd Annual Phoenix Veterans Day Parade on Monday, November 12, 2017, to see all our Grand Marshals. This year’s parade theme is “OUT OF THE TRENCHES: A Century of Remembrance – WWI 1918.” The parade typically boasts more than 100 entries, and this year will have a special float with nearly 20 Vietnam Veterans riding on it. The parade will also feature patriotic floats, high school marching bands, JROTC marching units, color guards, Veterans Service Organizations, animals, novelty units and much, much more.
For more information on the parade and the parade route, click HERE.