FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Missouri Governor Mike Parson visited Fort Leonard Wood Aug. 26, where he provided remarks at a Military Police One Station Unit Training graduation ceremony and then was honored with the Order of the Marechaussee in steel by Brig. Gen. Niave Knell, U.S. Army MP School commandant, for his service in the Army as an MP.
At the graduation for Company E, 701st Military Police Battalion, Parson spoke about his hometown of Wheatland, Missouri.
“There were two flags that flew in that little town,” he said. “One over the post office, one over the school house. I said the Pledge of Allegiance every morning.”
Parson said he didn’t really understand the importance and the meaning of the flag of the United States of America and the Pledge of Allegiance until he “wore the uniform in the Army.”
“At 19 years old, I soon realized it wasn’t so much about me,” he said. “It was about all the people who served this country before I did. They sacrificed everything for us to be here today. They sacrificed for people they would never know.”
After completing Basic Combat Training here in 1975, Parson attended MP Advanced Individual Training at Fort McClellan, Alabama.
“I stood in that exact spot many years ago taking my basic training right here at Fort Leonard Wood,” he said to the graduates and their family and friends at the graduation.
After serving six years as an MP, Parson eventually became the sheriff of Polk County, Missouri, before entering politics, first as a member of the Missouri House of Representatives, later as a Missouri Senator before becoming Governor. He credits his military service as the jumping off point for his career.
“I literally would not be where I am today if I hadn’t been in the same shoes as these men and women who are behind me,” he said. “That’s how much it changed my life.”
Parson said his military uniform still hangs in his house “for my grandkids to see, and I fly the flag of the United States of America and the State of Missouri in my yard,” he said.
“It means everything in the world to me,” he added. “It reminds me every day of who I am and what it is I represent.”
Parson received his Order of the Marechaussee award in the MP Foyer at the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence’s Thurman Hall.
The award is one of the highest honors bestowed upon a military policeman in the MP Regimental Association. It is named after the Marechaussee Corps, formed in 1778 at Valley Forge by Gen. George Washington to police the Army and secure fugitives.
There are four categories of the Order of the Marechaussee: Gold, Silver, Bronze and Steel — the latter created in 2019 to recognize those who have served in the MP Regiment less than 10 years, but demonstrated “a degree of professionalism, high standards of integrity and morality, and esprit de corps consistent with the long-standing history and traditions of our regiment,” the order reads.
Before presenting the award, Knell spoke on the roles service members play during and after their service, noting Parson’s service to the country extended beyond his time in the Army.
“Our impact is not only to the military, but it’s to the communities throughout our country. All that you’ve accomplished since then, we’ll take credit for it,” she joked.
Parson said he felt “humbled” to receive the award.
“If it hadn’t been for my military service, the dedication I learned, the discipline I learned, and what it means to be a real team player — we hear that term, we throw it around a lot, but you know and I know, you guys depend on one another to come together as a military,” he said. “I never forgot those core values of what I learned here at Fort Leonard Wood at basic training.”
Parson added he would shake his drill sergeant’s hand today if he could.
“I’d tell him, ‘you made me a better son; you made me a better husband; you made me a better father; and you made me a better grandparent.’ If it hadn’t been for him, I wouldn’t be the Governor of the State of Missouri,” he said. “My heart’s always with our service men and women, where ever they are. They’ve always got an ally here in Missouri in the Governor’s Office.”
More photos from Governor Parson's visit to Fort Leonard Wood are available on the Fort Leonard Wood Flickr page.