SEWARD, Neb. – The Nebraska Marine Daegan William-Tyeler Page Defending the Soil Memorial Award was presented to the Gary and Shari Peters family at the June 28-29 Graze Master Group event, “Historic Roots for Agriculture’s Future,” held at the Seward County Fairgrounds in Seward, Neb. The purpose of the annual event is to help the agriculture industry and rural communities seek solutions that work in tandem with nature, while enhancing farm and ranch profitability, hence the group’s motto – Balancing Nature and Profitability.
The award was designed to honor the memory of Corporal Page who served in the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Division based at Camp Pendleton, Calif. On August 26, 2021, Page, age 23, was among the 13 U.S. service members killed in the attack at the Abbey Gate of the Kabul Airport in Afghanistan. At least 169 Afghans were also killed in the bombing, as they struggled to get on flights out of the country.
The Graze Master Group designed this award to keep alive the memory of sacrifices made by Page, his comrades, and also military service and community members who have made sacrifices to improve the future for our rural and urban citizens. Because the land has been fought for and defended in a multitude of ways, the very least we can do as community leaders, farmers, and ranchers is protect and renew the soil and all natural resources under our management and care.
About the Peters family . . .
On Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2011, at 6:12 p.m., Gary and Shari faced a parent’s ultimate nightmare. They stood at their son’s deathbed. His heart had stopped beating. Dr. Gordon confirmed Jacob’s death and asked the couple if they were ready to turn off the ventilator.
“I looked across the bed at Shari and we both nodded in agreement and the machine was turned off and Jacob was perfectly still. My son was gone,” Gary wrote in the journal he kept during his son’s cancer journey and later published into a book, “Stronger – The Jacob Peters Story.”
Lymphoma took Jacob’s life far too early. Still, today, his life lives on through his parents who are looking at each other and saying, “We can’t give up.”
“Nebraska has the highest pediatric cancer rate west of Pennsylvania,” Gary said, quoting data from the Centers of Disease Control (CDC). “We want to help people who are trying to really move the needle in some way and find solutions.”
“We don’t want anyone else to go through this like we did,” Shari said adamantly. “If we can change someone’s life, it’s all worth it. It’s terribly sad but true, everyone will know a pediatric cancer victim in their lifetime.”
Moving the needle has meant Gary and Shari are dedicating their lives to helping increase pediatric cancer research and exposing information about environmental issues (both human-induced and naturally occurring) causing cancer in all age groups. The Peters family, along with Dr. Don Coulter of the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC), were one of the more than 14 presenters seeking to find solutions to help make rural communities and farms and ranches healthier for future generations at the Graze Master event.
“It’s about asking ourselves the question, ‘Have I thought about what I am doing and thought about the consequences?’” Gary said about the opportunity to ask these types of questions at the event. “If you haven’t thought about it, you’re just hitting the ‘easy button,’ and perhaps missing there could be a better way.”
The Peters family never stops thinking about the loss of Jacob. Their service to community and country doesn’t cease either. Gary and Shari are ever focused and driven to make a difference and spread awareness when it comes to the high rates of pediatric cancer in Nebraska. Gary served as vice president of the Pediatric Cancer Action Network from 2014-2021 and since 2022 is serving as president of the Pediatric Cancer Action Network (PCAN). He is also a founding board member of the Nebraska Coalition to End Childhood Cancer (NebC3) and he serves as a board member of the Grace Cancer Foundation – a Grand Island area cancer endowment organization.
His leadership and drive also led him to testify at the Nebraska Unicameral, along with others, that has led to a dramatic increase in dollars pointed towards pediatric cancer research. Also, to this day, copies of “Stronger – The Jacob Peters Story” published in April of 2021, are being distributed across the nation to help increase awareness of what it’s like for a father to watch a child face the horrific realities of a cancer diagnosis.
Gary has agricultural roots, growing up on a small farm south of Aurora, Neb., the community where the couple continues to reside. In December of 1990, both Gary and Shari graduated from the University of Nebraska – Kearney. Gary with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Distribution and Shari with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. While at UNK, Gary played football for one year and was a founding father of Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity. Involvement in sports and seeking out opportunities to help educate and engage young people is a passion for Gary.
Gary and Shari met at UNK and the couple married on October 3, 1992. They were blessed with three sons – Jacob, Jerod, and Dalton. Gary and Shari also have a strong career history. Currently, Gary is serving as a project manager/business development for MCL Construction in Kearney, Neb. Shari is a human resources coordinator at Merrick Medical Center/Bryan Health in Central City, Neb. They are members of the Aurora United Methodist Church, love to spend time with their family, friends, and in service to their community.
Their son Jerod graduated from Aurora High School in May 2016. He attended Concordia University, Neb. where he earned a Bachelors in Exercise Science and a minor in Biology in May 2020. While attending Concordia, Jerod was a thrower on the Concordia Track and Field Team. He was a three-time NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) National Qualifier in shot put and a NAIA National Qualifier in hammer. He also was a three time All GPAC (Great Plains Athletic Conference) shot put thrower and earned the NAIA Champion on Character Award in 2020. Jerod is an avid weightlifter and holds the majority of the lifting records at Concordia. For the last two years, Jerod has been a Graduate Assistant to the football and track and field team at Tennessee State University (TSU) in Nashville. He graduated from TSU in May with a Master’s in Business Administration. This summer, Jerod is continuing to work with the athletes at TSU, while actively seeking employment as an assistant strength and conditioning coach.
Their youngest son, Dalton, graduated from Aurora High School in May 2017. He attended the University of Nebraska – Lincoln where he graduated in May 2022 with a Bachelors in Mechanized Systems Management and a minor in Business Administration and National Securities Studies. Dalton was an athlete on the UNL Track and Field Team for four years, where he threw hammer and weight. During his final semester at UNL, he earned an EMT (emergency medical technician) certification. Dalton joined the Army National Guard in March 2022. He completed Basic and Advanced Individualized Training at Ft. Benning, where he won Distinguished Honor Graduate and Iron Solider. Dalton is currently an 11B-Infantryman in C Troop 1-134th Cavalry. He works at Creative Landscape in-between Guard assignments, with his next assignment coming in late July. He is also in the interviewing phases for employment in law enforcement.
Jacob’s life stopped far too soon at age 17. During his life, he was an accomplished athlete, student, citizen, and friend. His father’s journal can be found at jp3stronger.com, with all proceeds from the sale of the book going directly to PCAN to further assist families in need.
“Sometimes it can be a very lonely experience,” Shari admitted about their journey to ignite change and share new information. “But, we have to keep showing up.”
“That is why our mission will continue to be sharing Jacob’s story, raising awareness of the plight of families fighting pediatric cancer, and raising money for the Pediatric Cancer Action Network,” Gary said. “Our mission is to relieve as much unnecessary stress on parents as possible so that they can focus on the only thing that really matters – the care of their child.”
To learn more about the Graze Master Group visit: www.grazemastergroup.com