Fairway Mortgage, American Warrior Initiative host author Sean Parnell
By Kris Leonhardt
MARSHFIELD — On Sept. 9 Marshfield’s Holiday Inn and Conference Center was a wellspring of inspiration and understanding.
The event, coordinated by the American Warrior Initiative and hosted by Fairway Independent Mortgage, featured a half-hour presentation by New York Times best-selling author Sean Parnell.
Parnell, an Army Ranger who experienced 485 days of fighting on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, spoke on experiences before, during, and after his enlistment.
“I remember that day like it was yesterday,” Parnell said, recalling the events of Sept. 11, 2001. “I think what affected me the most were the first responders, the police officers, the firefighters, just ordinary American citizens. Instead of running away from (the twin towers) that day, I watched as Americans ran headlong into them.
“I’ve heard that the two most important days in your life are the day that you are born and the day you figure out why. In the wake of the nation’s most horrific terror attack in history, I knew exactly why.”
Parnell enlisted and went through both Ranger and Airborne training before he was given command of an infantry platoon nicknamed The Outlaws, but the day he arrived at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border was more horrible than he could have imagined.
“No training can ever truly prepare you for a moment like that,” said Parnell. “I experienced 485 days of moments like that.
“After all of it, we tried to come home. I immediately felt like there was a barrier between my family and I.”
Parnell relived how he locked pain away from his family and friends and only opened following inspiration from an unlikely source.
“I started looking for a house,” recalled Parnell. “I got a real estate agent. We’re looking around for houses, and she is like, ‘Hey, Sean, look, I’m married to a combat helicopter pilot. He’s been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. I know you just got back. I want to tell you that there is no possible way, as a civilian, that I will understand what you have to say, but I am ready to listen if you want to tell me. … I can take it. You are not going to hurt me.’
“I thought about it, and I thought, ‘Maybe she’s right.’ … It all started with a real estate agent, in the most unlikely of places.”
Those words prompted Parnell to share his story, which he later put into book form and now tours the country to share.
The Sept. 9 presentation was part of an effort to bring awareness to the challenges facing veterans returning from war and inspire individuals to give back to the men and women of the military.
For more information on the American Warrior Initiative, visit militarymortgagespecialists.com.