For more than 28 years, Maj. Ernest Parker admirably served his fellow man as a member of the United States Air Force. Parker retired from the military in 2000, but that has not in any way diminished his service to others.
Parker, of Green Ridge, was recognized for his outstanding volunteer efforts Monday afternoon when Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder presented him as a recipient of the Veterans Service Award in the Sedalia City Council Chambers.
“Maj. Parker showed his commitment to his fellow citizens through the selfless service and sacrifice he demonstrated as a member of the military,” Kinder said. “He continues to make a difference in the lives of veterans through his selfless service that has left a lasting impact on Pettis County and on those whose lives he has touched.”
Since his retirement, Parker has worked in multiple communities throughout the area helping not only veterans but also students through his work with the Smith-Cotton JROTC program and the American Legion Post 520 in La Monte that provides scholarships to area graduates.
“Ernie and his wife Susan are just wonderful people,” said Don Barbour, Commander of Voiture 333, 40 and 8. “He works continuously to do whatever is necessary to help others.
“He puts in a lot of time and effort and has been active for quite a while helping veterans here in Sedalia, La Monte and Green Ridge, but he also finds the time make trips to the Veterans Home in Warrensburg each month to volunteer there,” Barbour added. “He serves as the secretary/treasurer for the 40 and 8 and holds that position on the state level as well so he has a great many responsibilities.”
In addition to helping organize and host bingo events for veterans in Warrensburg, breakfasts at the La Monte American Legion, placing flags on the graves of veterans in Green Ridge and La Monte and serving on the honor guard for military funerals, one of his most recent projects is the restoration of the Merci Boxcar on the Missouri State Fairgrounds.
A fundraiser effort is underway to renovate and restore the boxcar, which was a gift from France after World War II.
“Probably one of the biggest things that Ernie has been working on is the restoration of the Merci Boxcar,” Barbour said. “He took it upon himself to start the restoration and preservation of the car.
“We set a goal of $20,000 for the project and to date we’ve raised $16,000,” he added. “A lot of the work has been accomplished because of Ernie’s time and efforts.”
The Veterans Service Award, created by Kinder in 2012, recognizes Missouri veterans who provide exemplary volunteer service to their communities, and are a way, according to Kinder, for the state to honor its veterans and the sacrifices they continue to make for their communities throughout the state.
“I appreciate this very much and I was both shocked and surprised when I was told I won,” Parker said. “It truly is a great honor.
“I enjoy what I do and I’m glad to do it,” Parker said when accepting his award. “I try to spend a few hours each week helping others; it’s something nice I can do.”
Parker was one of 34 recipients selected from 200 nominees this year. Barbour and Tom and Carolyn Miller, of Green Ridge, nominated Parker for the honor.
State Rep. Denny Hoskins, who presented Parker with a House Resolution, praised the retired major for his service to others.
“Mr. Parker has devoted himself to the service of others both in the military and since his retirement,” Hoskins told the Democrat after the ceremony. “He is a great example of what it means to demonstrate true American spirit.”
Parker is the third member from 40 and 8 to receive the Volunteer Service Award, joining E.L. Eichholz, of Cole Camp, and Tony Gallagher, of Sedalia.
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.