Miami-Dade County

Friends and Neighbors: Independence Day a great chance to honor our military heroes

As we stop to celebrate America’s independence this Fourth of July with barbecues, parties, and fireworks, it is right to remember and honor the men and women who have served, and who continue to serve, in all branches of the military.

Two of our local heroes are Navy Airman Brett Parks, a 1997 graduate of Palmetto Senior High School, and Navy Lt. Louis Sanchez, a 1989 Killian Senior High School graduate.

Parks recently qualified in the Wounded Warrior Team Navy Trials in Norfolk, Virginia. He was one of four sponsored by the super aircraft carrier PCU Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) during the week-long trials.

The event brought together seriously wounded, ill and injured service members to face off in archery, shooting, swimming, wheelchair basketball, cycling, track and field, and sitting volleyball competitions. The Navy Trials are a precursor to the Warrior Games, an annual athletic competition hosted by the U.S. Olympic Committee, that include more than 200 wounded warriors from all branches of military service.

“I made the team for the 100-meter freestyle swimming, 50-meter freestyle swimming, 50-meter backstroke, discus, shot put, and sitting volleyball,” Parks said.

“It really is an honor to participate. When things happen to us, the plans we had in our past for our future can seem gone. But with the Wounded Warriors and these games it reignites our dreams in a different way. If it wasn’t for these games and what they do for us I’d probably still be sitting in the hospital,” he said.

Parks was studying to be a flight engineer in Jacksonville when he was shot in the abdomen while trying to subdue a robbery suspect. He said he survived a 99.999 percent mortality gunshot wound.

In addition to his Team Navy participation, Parks is an inspirational speaker who travels around the country speaking at businesses, schools and churches. He also started the not-for-profit organization Second Shot Ministry. Check it out at And he recently wrote a book, Miracle Man: A Bullet that Ignited a Purpose Filled Life.

Parks is one of about 40 sailors who will compete on Team Navy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in September.

Navy Lt. Sanchez has served as a clinical social worker onboard USS Bataan for five years. He is currently deployed in waters near the Middle East.

“I joined the Navy because I wanted to serve my country and assist those service members returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” Sanchez said in a news release. “I enjoy working side-by-side with the corpsman, nurses, and medical providers in a multidisciplinary team approach for the overall well being of our service members.”

As the only clinical social worker serving in the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (BATARG), he is there to support more than 4,200 sailors and Marines.

“Lt. Sanchez is an essential part of the team. Both clinical social workers and psychologists fill a necessary gap for providing mental health support throughout the deployment,” said Cmdr. William Wallace, senior medical officer on Bataan in a news release. “If he was not here service members would have to travel back to the United States to receive support, instead they can get the support they need while still contributing to the mission.”

Sanchez is the second clinical social worker to deploy in support of an Amphibious Ready Group. The number of clinical social workers in the Navy has gone from 20 to 85 in the past five years.

“As a Navy Social Worker my skills can be utilized in a broad variety of billets such as substance abuse, family advocacy, medical/surgical social work, outpatient mental health, and inpatient mental health,” Sanchez said.


Spend the day before the big day listening to “A United State of Music” presented by summer camp bands and orchestras with the Greater Miami Youth Symphony. The show is at 1 p.m. Thursday, July 3, at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, 10950 SW 211th St.

The concert will feature the Symphony Orchestra, Concert Orchestra, Concert Band, and Jazz Band with a grand finale by the Advanced Camp Orchestra. Regular-price tickets can be purchased at Youth and senior tickets are available only at the box office or over the phone. Call 786-573-5300. For more information, visit


Guests are invited to hear members of the South Florida Writers Association when they read from original works from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the Pinecrest Library, 5835 SW 111th St. Guests also may bring works to read. Time limit for all participants is five minutes per person. Cost is $10 for members and $12 for guests. Brunch is included. RSVP by July 2 to For moredetails visit

Send news and photos to . Please email items at least three weeks in advance of an event.