Eric Parker served as an Army Reserve military police officer for nine years, which included deployments to Iraq (2009 and 2010) and Guantanamo Bay (2103). Although he left the Army in 2015, he continues to serve as a contractor on a military installation to this day.
"[I'm aware that] a lot of veterans who separate from the service struggle with finding that sense of community and comradery that they had whenever they were in the military," Parker tells American Family News.
But those service members, he says, should consider getting involved in local community organizations to fill that void. His first choice is the local church. That's what he did, and he admits it worked for him.
"If you're a believer, find a church; and if you're not, maybe you should still consider going to a church," Parker encourages. He also suggests trying a local Veterans of Foreign Wars or American Legion organization. "It's all about finding the sense of community that was lost when leaving the service," he explains.
Having achieved the rank of sergeant in the Army Reserve, Parker says others have expressed to him through the years that he is a good leader.
"Whenever I saw something that was being done wrong, I spoke up and did the right thing – even if it might have hurt me in the end," he shares. "Sometimes my position would be listened to and sometimes it would be ignored, but I was always willing to try to do the right thing."
And that's why Parker is making a run for one of the five at-large city council positions in Jacksonville, Florida.
Although the state has been called "the free state of Florida," Parker recalls the mandatory masking of citizens and lockdowns of businesses in the region in response to the spread of COVID-19. Florida closed small businesses for over 90 days and fined many of them – and those businesses suffered greatly as a result. He blames "the failure of leadership" in local government for many of the harmful measures.
Living through that experience motivated Parker to make a difference in his own community, solidifying his desire to run for city council.
Jacksonville's municipal election will be held on March 21. The Libertarian candidate is running against Terrance Freeman (the current city council president), a Republican incumbent opponent who would have gone unopposed had Parker not taken up the challenge. A recent poll shows Freeman – himself an Army veteran – with a 16-point lead with almost a third of those polled undecided.