Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Road to the Marines

 One of Parker's senior photos- where he is NOT holding a gun!

Quite a few people have asked me why Parker wants to join the Marines.  I can't speak for him, except for what he has written in his letters, but I can share my own thoughts and observations.  Here's what I know.  When I look at photo albums it starts being funny because every page you turn there is a photo of Parker wearing wither Red, White, and Blue or camo.  It is rare to see anything else until high school when he added wrestling t-shirts to his wardrobe.  And his hair has always been short since he had a say about it.  Sometimes even shaved.  The other thing that is obvious as you turn the pages of the many photo albums is that we have traveled a lot.  Parker has been to 38 states and 5 countries.  He knows what America is all about and he's seen what is part our borders.  He knows what he stands for.

Parker was, and is, a tough and tumble kid.  He was scaling the refrigerator at about 18 months- which was a problem for me since I was 8 months pregnant with Reed!  He was always dirty and would make anything explode that he could- flour in the kitchen, baby powder in the bathroom... you get the idea!  He always wanted to be outside.  Right around his 4th birthday we bought a new-to-us motor home that was straight from the 70's and came with the 8 track tapes from the era.  He decided that camper was his and he wanted to go camping all the time!  As we traveled he learned great tunes by Johnny Cash and the Carpenters.

Parker was in kindergarten on September 11, 2001.  He was already a patriot and that event galvanized his 5 year old heart against the bad guys who threaten our country.  He was a vision in red, white, and blue and he wore this pin that we made together every day for months. I was surprised to see the school pictures with the flag he had built out of Legos that he made at school- I didn't know anything about it, but Mrs. South said that he kept it in his cubby and would not let anyone take it apart to re-use the Legos.

At that time in his life, all Parker wanted to be was a firefighter.  We watched "Here Comes a Fire Truck" over and over.  Ed and I can still sing all the songs!  For his 5th birthday Ed had put an old hydrant over our irrigation water spigot in the back yard.  We bought the right size hose and Parker could water the garden like a fireman.  When the fires burned after 9-11, our Fire Department was sending some guys to New York to help.  Parker had his dad unhook the hose in the backyard and he gave it to Fire Chief Dale Ekins to take to NYC to help put out the fires.  A few weeks later the hose was returned along with a FDNY hat that Parker wore all the time.

Parker shot a .22 for the first time in 2002 when we were in Illinois at Uncle Bob's house.  Loved it.  This is his 4th grade school photo from 2006- 4th grade.

Parker loved being in the Boy Scouts of America.  He loved the campouts and the hikes.  The harder the adventure was, the happier it made him.  He earned his Eagle and for his project he built a fire pit in North Lake Park.  His favorite part was the Camping Merit Badge.

The photo on the left is from the 50 mile bike ride.  It was a cold miserable day in September, but he did it!  Can't remember if he was 12 or 13.  He earned his Eagle at age 15.

Parker started wrestling in high school which is a brutal sport.  He learned to be tough both mentally and physically.  Of course Reed had to follow in his big brother's footsteps.  When they would come home from practice, Reed would be moaning and say "That was the worst practice ever."  Parker would come in with a big grin and say, "That was an awesome practice!"  The funny thing is, I don't think he ever liked wrestling despite the fact he was on the team for four years.  It was all about pushing himself to the limits in a sport that most people just can't handle.

Parker has always loved shooting.  He is our varmint control manager at the cabin and is pretty lethal with a pellet gun.  I can't even begin to imagine how many rodents have had aerial burials down there at his hands.
In November of his Junior year (2012) he was lifting.  He went down into a squat and started to come up and got stuck.  His first knee surgery was to remove the bone spur that had finally gotten long enough to dig into his IT Band muscle.  He recovered quickly and was able to start wrestling in January.  Interestingly enough, he was much better than he had been before surgery.
This is my favorite photo of Parker wrestling.  I love the intensity in his eyes as he was waiting for the ref to call the pin.  You can see the scar from the first surgery in this shot as well.

In April of that same year he went to one of those trampoline places where he managed to hurt his knee.  The doctor we went to was an idiot.  He did an ultrasound, pronounced that he would be fine with some physical therapy and sent us on our way.  I still can't believe I let that happen.  He did PT for a couple of months and then went to Vandit Wrestling Camp in June.  His knee dislocated 7 times in the first two days.  After doing some more PT, finding the doctor again who had changed offices, and finally getting x-rays and an MRI, we were sent to the head of Sports Medicine at the University of Utah Orthopedic Hospital who did a huge surgery on P's knee on September 25th, 2013. (For more on the TTT surgery, READ THIS.)  Parker became the poster child for a perfect recovery.  The doctor said he had never seen someone heal so completely and quickly from that big a surgery.  He cleared him to wrestle on January 6, 2014!
These are the scars from the second surgery.  He had two dissolvable screws to hold the new "tendon" that was made out of his hanstring and two big old screws holding his tibia together after they broke it and reshaped it to better hold the patella. Unfortunately Reed blew out his knee on January 7th and we had another knee surgery in the family.  Parker got tweaked in one of his matches and his Dad called an end to his wrestling career.  I left on a cruise with both of them on crutches! 

As any good parents would, we tried to talk to Parker about going to college or serving a Mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  He was pretty quiet about his plans, but we knew he was thinking about military service.  Things came to a head in April of his Senior year when he asked us to go to the recruiter's office and sign paperwork to allow him to join the Marines since he was only 17.  After many conversations, and a few tears on my part, we did.  This was important because it allowed us to start down the path of getting his knee cleared.  To be honest, we never really thought they would take him since he still has two screws in his knee.  But he was in such good shape that they thought he would be just fine.

This photo was taken during Parker's junior year of high school.  You can see that he had taken the "military thing" to the next level.  And that there was a new sense of seriousness.

Parker left in June to go work in North Dakota on a road project for his Dad's company.  He spent the days hauling rebar and running up and down the hills with Survey equipment.  By the time he came home in October, he had lost about 10 pounds.  He was supposed to leave on November 17, but all of a sudden the date was changed to November 2.  We were on the hustle to have family photos and to get everything ready.  Which, since they can only take a Driver's License, a Social Security Card, $20, and the clothes on their backs, it was pretty easy!

Getting sworn in for the second time (active duty) at the MEPS in Salt Lake City.  November 3, 2014.

It was hard sitting at MEPS and knowing my boy was leaving and that he would come back totally different- a man.  I am actually kind of excited to see if he picks up after himself. . .  This little kid who was at MEPS because his sister was going into the Army became enamored with Parker.  This is the last photo I took of him before he left.  It make me happy that he was so kind to this kid.

It is fun to sit back and think of all the influences in Parker's life that led him to want to serve his Country.  We are pretty patriotic and I think Utah is a very patriotic state- much more so than Maine where his Dad and I grew up.  Ed and I are both the children of men who served in WWII.  My brother served in the Army and my niece served in the Navy during Desert Storm.  Parker will be the first Marine in the family tree.  I think our tree is getting a lot stronger- and better defended!


Josh Omer said...

He's going to be a fantastic Marine, they're lucky to have him :)

Stan said...

Parker is doing what he was born to do. What a great man he is becoming. We have a son in law who served two tours of duty in Iraq and we love having that strength in our family. I know you are very proud of him and we are too.

Joan said...

It just must be his destiny. I am not even his Mom, but I still feel like crying when I read his bio. You are good parents to know when to hold on and when to let go.