Thursday, June 21, 2007

Larry Parks Jr. dies 'of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle'

Pfc. Larry Parks Jr. was a servant-leader, his family and friends said Tuesday.

Parks was in Iraq for only 38 days when he and his tank crew were struck Monday by an improvised explosive device in Sadr City.

Parks, assigned to 1st Brigade, 2nd Battalion, 31st Infantry Division, died in the attack. He was 24.

Parks is the fifth Blair County service member to die during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“Larry was strong-willed, happy-go-lucky and a hard worker. He’s one of the best sons anybody could want. It was in his mind what he wanted to do — to go into the Army. I couldn’t say, ‘No, don’t go there,’ He thought he could make a difference,” said his father, Larry Sr.

Parks had a lot of friends. He was the leader of the pack, his father said.

“It was total friendship and fellowship, even to a total stranger,” he said. “If someone was broke down along the road, he would stop and do what he had to do. He was kind, very thoughtful.”

Parks, a 2002 graduate of Altoona Area High School, served as a member of the Newburg Volunteer Fire Company, two blocks from his home.

President Robert Dennis Sr. said the company tries to get firefighters active in all aspects so they can “buy into the process.”

Parks bought into the process.

“He wasn’t a follower. He was a leader who was instrumental to get things done,” Dennis said.

Dennis pointed to the company’s tanker truck.

“Larry helped design that truck,” he said.

Firefighters erected black bunting around their station’s doors to remember Parks.

Parks was going to be one of the company’s captains but couldn’t fulfill the duty when he enlisted in the Army in January 2006.

Logan Township police Officer Gil Barton saw Parks during a recent leave.

“He just stopped me to say he was leaving. He was in good spirits. He was ready to serve,” Barton said. “He was always dedicated at the fire company and always went out of his way to be friendly to us [police].”

Parks served his country and went to Iraq because he wanted to change things, his father said.

“The more people know about my son, it may change things here. Maybe we should be there. Maybe we should take care of our own because who is going to take care of us? Those over there or us,” he said.

Parks also is survived by his mother, Cheryl; his three sisters, Amanda, Hannah and Michelle, and his brother, Adam.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete, his father said. It could take up to five days before Parks’ body is returned to the U.S. at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

From the Altoona Mirror