By Allen Jones, TEXPERS Communications Manager
When attendees of TEXPERS’ 2019 Summer Educational Forum leave the three-day conference, Ryan Parrott hopes they will have a renewed passion for their work on behalf of the police officers, firefighters, and other public employees they work to provide with secure retirements.
“I call my speech The Spark because I know from life lessons that the spark is what drives you in life to absolutely crush what you are going after,” said Parrott, an ex-U.S. Navy SEAL turned entrepreneur, author, philanthropist and extreme sports TV series host. “It makes you dig deeper than you’ve ever dug before because it gives meaning and purpose behind the effort to get to the top.”
Parrott will give the keynote presentation during the forum Aug. 18-20 at The Omni Hotel in Frisco, Texas. Advanced online registration for the event ends Aug. 5. Visit www.texpers.org for additional information. However, on-site registration will be available.
Parrott will speak during a luncheon from noon to 1:30 p.m. Aug. 19. It’s a presentation he has given to leaders of fortune 500 companies, fire department recruits, investment industry leaders, Boy Scouts and groups as large as 150,000 people and as small as the elementary school he attended as a child living in Detroit.
“I go through my life story – soup to nuts – growing up in Detroit, my career as a Navy SEAL, after my SEAL career, the organizations I’ve founded, extreme sports and landing a TV series,” Parrott said.
He is the founder of two nonprofits benefiting U.S. veterans and first responders, groups many of TEXPERS’ members belong to, help to secure retirement incomes for, or both.
“I hope to take them back to day one of their services so that they truly get that refreshment of what they are fighting for,” Parrott said. “Hopefully, just a taste of my failures and successes – mostly failures – will shed some light on the fact that veterans and first responders are fighting for the same issues here. We are all fighting to take care of each other.”
Parrott grew up in Michigan. He enlisted in the Navy after watching the Twin Towers fall on 9/11, the day in 2001 when terrorists hijacked four airliners for use in an attack on the U.S. He spent eight years as a SEAL, a special operations force of Navy, attached to Team SEVEN. He completed three combat tours to Iraq assigned to Advanced Training Command as an instructor.
During his first tour of Iraq, Parrott picked up the nickname Birdman after a roadside bomb exploded and ejected him out the gunner’s turret of a military Hummer. In an interview that aired in April on WFAA-TV Channel 8 in Dallas, Parrott said the explosion sent him flying straight out of the vehicle and into the sky, like a bird.
The event wasn’t without injuries, but his burns were minor compared to some of the injuries he witnessed his fellow soldiers receive during his tours. After eight years in the Navy, he decided to use his military training to help military and first-responder burn victims.
In 2012, Parrott founded Sons of the Flag to help burn survivors obtain medical treatments. He also established the Bird’s Eye View Project, a web and TV series that uses extreme sports to highlight the need to assist U.S. veteran and first-responder burn victims in obtaining treatment and to get more doctors educated in burn victim care.
The web and TV series introduces viewers to veterans and first responders who live with various injuries and broadcasts their drive to overcome extreme sporting challenges. Parrott himself has jumped from airplanes and the top of a crane. He has repelled with a canine companion from football stadiums and hockey arenas. He went flight tandem paragliding in Switzerland, unbuckled himself from the harness thousands of feet in the air and parachuted to the ground on his own.
Parrott also is the author of Sons of the Flag: Real Accounts from the Last 100 Years of American Service. He brought together veterans from each of the American wars from World War II to the present and the veteran firefighters of 9/11.The book is available to purchase on Amazon. Proceeds of book sales goes to his charity, Sons of the Flag.
The former Detroiter now lives in Dallas with his wife and young son. The couple have a new child on the way.
“I hope everyone who attends the TEXPERS conference and hears my story goes to SonsOfTheFlag.org and sends the link out to their friends to help raise awareness of veterans and first responders who have survived a burn injury,” he said. “Even knowing it exists, putting it out in the world, gives us an edge to help people who need it.”