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Being of Service

Solon graduate Eric Munson veterans day featured speaker
Eric Munson, a 2004 graduate of Solon High School, was the featured speaker at a Nov. 14 Veterans Day program at the Solon Center for the Arts. Munson served in the U.S. Air Force from 2006 to 2010. (photo by Doug Lindner)

SOLON– “The most important things that you will do in your life will come from being of service,” Eric Munson told the students.
Munson, a 2004 graduate of Solon High School, was the featured speaker at a Nov. 14 Veterans Day program at the Solon Center for the Arts, and he was passing on the greatest single lesson he learned from his military service.
“Only when you put your own wants and desires aside can you focus on making a difference in the world around you,” Munson said. “Whether it’s service to your family, your community, your nation or your faith, the work you do will create a lasting impact in the world that you can be proud of.”
Munson served in the U.S. Air Force from 2006 to 2010 after completing the fire science program at Hutchinson Community College, in Kansas. He was deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and was discharged with rank senior airman E4.
He currently lives in Solon with his wife Gina and children Oliver, Melody and Jeremiah, and owns a transportation business, Jordan Creek Mobile Resources.
He told the crowd he was part of the second group to graduate out of the current high school building.
“I played football for Coach Miller and was taught public speaking by Mr. Farnsworth,” he said. “So if this goes poorly, I know who I’m blaming.”
Munson made his remarks in the school district’s Center for the Arts auditorium, a new location for the district’s annual Veterans Day program.
The event, organized by Instructional Coach Amanda Stahle with assistance from senior Ellie Hawkins, followed a similar format as previous versions held at the former Solon Middle School.
“I chose this project because I heard help was needed and I remembered how big the assembly was when I attended in middle school,” Hawkins said.
The Solon American Legion Color Guard advanced the colors, the national anthem was performed by members of the vocal group Bella Voce, Hawkins led the Pledge of Allegiance, and attending veterans were asked to rise and be recognized as the members of the Solon High School Band played the anthem of each military branch.
Eric Munson was introduced to the mostly-student audience by his older brother, Jake Munson, Solon High School success coordinator.
Veterans Day is a day set aside each year to honor the sacrifices, past and present, of the country’s armed forces, Eric said.
“Enlisting in the military is an act that, by itself, requires a great amount of courage,” he said. “By signing on that line, a person is willingly offering everything they have and everything they are to support the needs of their country.”
Americans should not take that sacrifice lightly, he said.
“Veterans Day is not just for those who have given their lives in defense of our nation, but all those who have offered up their time, comfort and freedom to protect the things that we as Americans hold dear,” he said. “Those who live with injuries and physical limitations received during their service, and those who carry invisible scars from traumas unseen and uncelebrated.”
But he didn’t want to make it sound like military service was one long anguish after another.
“My own enlistment was a unique experience that I’m proud of and am glad to have had,” he said.
He served as a firefighter while stationed at Travis Air Force base in San Francisco, and while his mission was to protect flight operations, installation facilities and the more than 10,000 people who lived on base, his day to day life was similar to a civilian firefighter, he said.
The base had a group that competed in the Firefighter Combat Challenge, a timed obstacle course featuring firefighters in full turnout gear that has been nationally televised.
Munson said he was fortunate enough to make the team, which competed across the country (Seattle, Miami, San Diego, Anchorage) nearly every weekend of the season.
In his first year, the team won a title at the world championships in Las Vegas, competing against fire department teams from all over the world.
“The whole experience was just one of many unique opportunities and adventures that I had during my time in the military,” he said.
But like all service members, his time was not his own.
The mission always came first, and he spent many holidays, and birthdays working or deployed.
“In fact, I left for deployment to Iraq just days after the birth of my first born son and missed so many important moments of his young life,” he said.
Munson prefers not to speak about his time in Iraq, not even to family and friends.
“But I will say this about the experience: It is an incredible feeling to be part of world history,” he said. “From watching events on the news one day to being in the midst of it the next day, to be working alongside your brothers and sisters to achieve not your goals, but the goals of your nation. And despite the danger and difficult situations, it was rewarding to be part of something bigger than myself.”