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- The People Behind The Sacrifice
Marine Cpl. Tommy L. Parker Jr.
Died June 21, 2004 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom
21, of Cleburne, Ark.; assigned to 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; killed June 21 killed in an ambush in Ramadi, Iraq, 60 miles west of Baghdad.
Arkansas Marine killed in Iraq ambush
By Cristina Rodriguez
LITTLE ROCK — An Arkansan who was among four killed Monday in Iraq needed his parents’ permission to join the Marine Corps when he was 17.
Cpl. Tommy L. Parker Jr., 21, of Heber Springs, was killed in an ambush in Ramadi, Iraq, 60 miles west of Baghdad. He served with a sniper platoon of the 1st Marine Division, based out of Camp Pendleton, Calif.
“T.J. was just the sort of person who would help anybody, anyone,” his father, Tommy Parker, said. “I think that T.J. just really wanted to do something for his country.”
Parker’s parents signed a release to allow him to join the Marine Reserves at 17 years old. He went on active duty after graduating from high school, his father said.
Parker and three other Marines were killed by insurgents and videotaped lying dead in what appeared to be a walled compound in Ramadi.
The videotape was delivered to Associated Press Television News on Monday, showing Parker and the others in the heart of the insurgent Sunni stronghold, without mandatory flak jackets and with their belongings looted or strewn about.
The bodies were found when the soldiers failed to report on schedule and a U.S. quick reaction force went looking for them.
Parker was the 13th Arkansan to die in combat in Iraq since the March 2003 start of the war.
A casualty officer visited Parker’s parents, Tommy and Renatta Parker, on Monday. Two of the family’s pastors were with T.J. Parker’s wife, Carla, and their 2-year-old daughter, Lara, when they were informed later in the day.
T.J. and Carla Parker started dating at the beginning of high school, Tommy Parker said.
Parker was a 2001 graduate of Triple S Christian Academy, a school on a ranch in nearby Rose Bud, Ark., that is connected to the Bishops’ Gospel Light Baptist Church. After joining the Marines, Parker served in Japan and Indonesia for about a year. He was deployed to Iraq in February, Tommy Parker said.
T.J. Parker probably decided to become a sniper because he loved hunting, his father said. He had accompanied his father on deer- and rabbit-hunting trips since he was 3 years old, Tommy Parker said.
He spoke with his family often while overseas, and his wife was the last to speak to him on Sunday, his father said.
“He talked like everything was going OK, it was just another day in Iraq,” Tommy Parker said.
The Rev. John Bishop, the family’s pastor, is comforting the family this week.
“I talked with the family and their greatest comfort is knowing T.J. was ready to meet the Lord,” said the Rev. John Bishop, the family’s pastor. “Their correspondence was very positive before his death.
“T.J. to us has been and still is our hero, along with every man and woman wearing that uniform today,” he said. “We’re proud of each and every one of them. Our hearts and prayers go out to everyone and everyone’s family.”
Funeral held for Marine killed in Iraq
HEBER SPRINGS, Ark. — A Marine corporal killed in an ambush in Iraq last week was remembered Tuesday for both his service to his country and his heroism in daily life.
Cpl. Tommy L. Parker Jr. of Heber Springs was one of four Marines killed June 21 in Ramadi, Iraq. He was serving with a sniper platoon of the 1st Marine Division, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Parker, 21, was a 2001 graduate of Triple S Christian Academy, where he dated the woman who would become his wife, Carla Parker.
Survivors include his wife, their 2-year-old daughter, Lara, and his parents, Tommy and Renatta Parker.
The Rev. John Bishop remembered teaching Parker and coaching him in basketball.
“He could jump so high he looked like a deer doing it,” Bishop said.
The priest also praised Parker’s devotion to his faith, saying that even when surrounded by tough Marines he was not too shy to give witness to his beliefs. As Parker prepared to leave for Iraq, the bishop said Parker’s wife told him, he remarked that the experience was bringing him closer to God.
“I don’t believe T.J. was a hero because he died. He was hero because he went,” Bishop said.
Parker’s parents signed a waiver allowing him to join the Marine Reserves while still in high school, and he went on active duty after graduation. He served in Japan and Indonesia and began duty in Iraq in February.
His father said Parker’s years of experience as a hunter likely led to his becoming a sniper. He recalled how the two began hunting deer and rabbit together when the boy was only 3.
Tuesday’s funeral included a photo tribute to Parker, tracing his life from childhood, through his marriage and on to his time as a father and Marine.
Several hundred people attended the service, which was often emotional. Toward the end, a second photo-tribute was devoted to Parker’s daughter.
Parker and three fellow Marines were killed by insurgents and videotaped lying dead in what appeared to be a walled compound in Ramadi.
The videotape was delivered to Associated Press Television News last week, showing Parker and the others in the heart of the insurgent Sunni stronghold, without mandatory flak jackets and with their belongings looted or strewn about.
The bodies were found when the Marines failed to report on schedule and a U.S. quick reaction force went looking for them.
— Associated Press