Thursday, June 21, 2007

Richard K. Parker 'died June 14 in Scania, Iraq, from wounds suffered on June 13 when IEDs detonated near his vehicle during combat operations'

LEWISTON -- A 26-year-old Maine soldier died Wednesday, June 13, one month before he was scheduled to return home to see a son he'd never met.

Sgt. Richard Parker of Phillips, part of the Maine Army National Guard's ad hoc Security Force II, was killed in an attack on his Humvee.

The Pentagon has released few details of the attack. However, the death has resonated through several towns in the area north of Farmington.

On Friday, plans were made for Parker's funeral at his alma mater, Mt. Abram High School in Salem Township. Meanwhile, relatives in Strong and Phillips gathered to mourn. "He had a good sense of humor, and he loved his family," an aunt said.

Among his surviving family is an infant son, Keagan. "He never saw his son," said the aunt, who declined to be named.

Parker's parents, Scott Hood of Strong and Dixie Flagg of Avon, were notified of his death Thursday morning. As family began spreading the word, friends also learned of his death.

On Friday, Spc. David Saucier of Sabattus -- severely injured in a June 3 explosion of a roadside bomb -- heard of Parker's death from his bed at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Parker and Saucier were doing the same job in the same unit. After Saucier was hurt, another soldier took his place as a gunner with the Maine soldiers. Just prior to Wednesday's attack, Parker switched with the replacement.

His death hurt Saucier, said his stepfather, Mike Pelletier. "David's very, very happy to be alive," Pelletier said. But he's grieving, too.

Family members recalled Parker as a mentor. "He was like an older sibling," said cousin Jonathan Parker, 20, who described playing basketball and going fishing with Richard, who was muscular and stood taller than 6 feet.

On Friday, the younger cousin planned to tattoo a kind of memorial on his forearm: it would have a cross, Richard's full name, the years of his birth and death, and the words "rest in peace."

"It's for memories," Jonathan Parker said. "It's something I can do."

The two visited when they could. And though Richard had served in Iraq before, he'd always maintained his humor. "He was outgoing, a very likable kid," the aunt said. And he'd been planning for the future. This fall, after returning home from Iraq, Parker planned to attend a technical school.

He served as part of the Maine Army National Guard's Battery A, 1st Battalion, 152nd Field Artillery Regiment from Waterville. Last year, he became part of Security Force II, the second ad-hoc unit of Maine soldiers plucked from a variety of Maine units.

The unit is due to return home in late July.

The Maine soldiers, numbering about 90, have been working to protect convoys and secure roads along the north-to-south supply routes in Iraq, said Capt. Shanon Cotta of the Maine Army National Guard.

"It's a very critical mission," Cotta said. While in Iraq, the Maine soldiers have worked as part of a larger unit from the Wisconsin Army National Guard.

From the Original Irregular