Wounded veteran honored at Battle at the Capital

By: Sarah Seyydin, Gold Country News Service
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Wounded veteran Lance Corporal Thomas Parker, 21, was honored last weekend during the Battle at the Capital football tournament at Del Oro High School. Originally from Ronan, Mont., Parker stepped on an explosive device in Afghanistan and lost the majority of his right leg, just above the knee, all of his left leg, and all fingers on his left hand except his index finger. Battle at the Capital organizer Mark Soto called Parker an “inspiring young man” and said the event benefits vital programs and services for severely wounded veterans. Sports reporter Sara Seyydin interviewed Parker last week about his experience serving in the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan. Q: What was your experience in Afghanistan? A: I deployed late September. I conducted operations for about three months. Dec. 11, I stepped on my (improvised explosive device). Q: What was going through your mind? A: I instantly knew what had happened because I had seen it happen to guys before. I got thrown in the air by the explosion. While I was in the air I started thinking more clearly. It is like a movie. The rocks and dirt were like floating through the air, slowed down. I have no concept of time between then and when I got to the base. Q: What happened next? A: I was in a medically induced coma between Dec. 11 and 14. Sometime the evening of Dec. 14 I woke up. I wasn’t really sure what had happened. I thought, ‘Was that a dream? Q: How did you react when you realized how badly you had been injured? A: There was a lot to comprehend. I never really went through a phase that was ‘Woe is me, what I am going to do?’ I consider myself pretty lucky. I’m still here. I’m still breathing and having this conversation with you. Am I am happy it happened, am I OK with it? No. There is really no point in dwelling on it. All the dwelling on it is really going to do is make me depressed. Q: Are you still working in the Marine Corps? A: I’m still considered active duty. I go to my medical appointments and get all my prosthetics taken care of. As far as the government is concerned I am still enlisted, but I really don’t do anything right now. Q: Did you ever really think this would happen to you? A: I never thought I would go over there and get injured. I thought I would go over there and come back or that would be the last thing I did. If you start to think about things too much, it literally consumes you and you walk around with fear all the time. You can’t do that because people are counting on you to be clear-headed and do your job. Q: Do people at home give you respect and honor you as a hero? A: I do get a large amount of respect. I’ve had World War II vets, Korean War vets and Vietnam vets come and thank me and shake my hand. I haven’t done anything compared to what those guys did. For those guys to show me respect is rather humbling. Q: What are your plans for the future? A: Get my rehab done, get as mobile and independent as I can. If I wanted to stay in the Marine Corps, they would find a job for me. When I joined I was set on it being my career for life. I enjoy the Marine Corps as a whole.