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Warrensburg teen who was honored as military child of the year dies in crash

Zachary Parsons had the chance to meet Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the 18th Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, when he received his Military Child of the Year award in 2015.
Zachary Parsons had the chance to meet Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the 18th Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, when he received his Military Child of the Year award in 2015.

A Warrensburg, Mo., teenager who was named a military child of the year by Operation Homefront died Monday in a single-vehicle crash east of Knob Noster, Mo.

Zachary A. Parsons, 17, died in the 3:35 p.m. crash on U.S. 50. He was believed to have been headed home from Bothwell Regional Health Center’s Medical Explorers program, a program for high-schoolers interested in the medical field as a career.

Parsons attended Sacred Heart High School in Sedalia, where he was a junior.

“He always, and I mean always, had a smile on his face,” said Holly Wilson, principal of Sacred Heart. “We are a K-12 school and he was really involved with our younger students. He was a great leader and mentor for them and his classmates as well.”

The crash occurred as Parsons drove west on U.S. 50 in a 2006 Jeep Liberty. The Jeep ran off the right side of the road near Missouri FF and struck a culvert, according to the Missouri Highway Patrol.

The SUV became airborne. When it struck the ground, it overturned and came to rest on its right side. Parsons died at the scene.

Parsons, the son of Jason and Debbie Parsons, was very active at his school, most recently practicing for the lead role in the school’s production of the play “Aladdin.” He was involved in the school’s liturgical choir and was a National Honor Society member, Wilson said.

“Every activity you could imagine, he was there,” Wilson said. “The kids just loved him.”

The school’s mood was somber Tuesday morning. His high school classmates were in the gym meeting with a counselor, talking about their favorite things about him and what they would miss.

“Zach had so many great attributes and so many things he brought to our school,” said Wilson, who met Parsons last year.

“He was the first one to tell you ‘Hello’ and ‘Good morning.’ I would stand in the hall and he would pass by me every day and just give me a ‘Good morning, Miss Wilson’ and ‘Have a great day, Miss Wilson.’ It was always a great way to start my day.”

Parsons was active in 4-H at local and state levels and was involved in the Boys & Girls Club of Whiteman Air Force Base, where he was named Missouri Youth of the Year and Whiteman Air Force Base Youth of the Year in 2013. He also served on the Missouri National Guard Teen Advisory Council.

Last year, Operation Homefront named Parsons Military Child of the Year for the National Guard. Each year, Operation Homefront, a nonprofit organization that provides emergency assistance to military families, recognizes an outstanding military child from each branch of the service. Last year was the first time it recognized a child from the National Guard.

Robert A. Cronkleton: 816-234-4261, @cronkb

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