SYRACUSE -- He spent six years in the Air Force and represented the United States in the 2004 Summer Olympic Games, but neither experience was as interesting to James Parker as something he encountered in college.
Now, 10 years after graduating from Utah State University, Parker gets the chance to fulfill his dream of being a chiropractor.
It began with a back injury at USU, where Parker was a nine-time NCAA Division I All-American. He saw a chiropractor for the first time.
"Nothing fixed my injury but a chiropractor," Parker said. "At that time, chiropractic care became the most fascinating thing to me. Ever since then, I've been thinking about it."
Parker recently graduated from the University of Western States, a chiropractic college in Portland, Ore., and decided to bring his family home as he started his new career. He grew up in Layton and was an all-state linebacker at Northridge High School.
Parker has traveled the world since his days as a Knight. He began throwing the hammer at the suggestion of his coach, Craig Carter, late in his high school track and field career. He followed his coach's advice and found success at USU.
After graduating from USU, he joined the Air Force and stayed active throwing the hammer.
"The Air Force kind of sponsored me," Parker said. "I got to do both."
Parker was a three-time U.S. Champion and earned a spot on the 2004 Olympic team that competed in Athens, Greece.
"Winning the U.S. Olympic trials was a huge thrill when I nailed my spot on the team," Parker said. "That was a big moment. Then at the games, of course, walking out into the stadium to compete was a dream come true. It was great to represent the United States as an athlete, and to feel that energy in the stadium was amazing."
When the Olympics ended, Parker returned to the Air Force. During his time serving his country as a commissioned officer, he was stationed in Great Falls, Mont., Tucson, Ariz., and Eugene, Ore.
While stationed in Tucson, Parker was deployed to Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, where he was a deputy services commander.
"It was amazing there -- everything was so beautiful," Parker said.
However, in 2008, Parker had the opportunity to follow another dream.
As the Air Force was reducing the number of its staff, Parker accepted voluntary separation pay and immediately went to chiropractic school.
After earning his doctor of chiropractic degree, Parker said, Utah, Montana and Oregon were his top three choices. His wife, Kami, is from Wyoming, and moving back to Parker's hometown also got her closer to home. Making up the rest of the family are sons James, 8; Jace, 6; Jarrom, 4; Johnathan, 2; and 6-month-old daughter Jessa.
While in college, Parker learned about Craig Buhler, who worked for 25 years as the Utah Jazz team chiropractor. Buhler developed a method called Advanced Muscle Integration Technique that helps evaluate muscle function and integrity.
"I just saw the results they got and was so impressed, I said, 'I've got to do this,'aa" Parker said.
Parker has joined Eric Rawlin, who studied with Buhler and also uses the AMIT method, at Rawlin Chiropractic Clinic. Now, after traveling the world representing his country as a serviceman and an athlete, Parker will fulfill his career dream.
"I'm excited to be home and to help my community with what I have to give," Parker said. "I hope I can benefit Utah like Utah benefited me."