At Fallston, memory and grief

Students and teachers mourn alumna who was killed in Iraq

February 11, 2007|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Reporter

At Fallston High School, Friday morning began with the usual announcements and the din of students' chatter, until the principal asked for a moment of silence in memory of a 2004 graduate who was killed in Iraq earlier in the week.

"Everything cut off and everyone fell silent," said John Galeone, a chemistry teacher who can remember the seat Marine Cpl. Jennifer Marie Parcell once occupied in his classroom. "Showing students her seat really drove the loss home to them."

Most days, Mr. Galeone posts a word of the day in his classroom. On Friday, the message was: "Thank you, Jen. We'll miss you."

Corporal Parcell, 20, of Bel Air, was killed Wednesday in an attack by a suicide bomber in Anbar province, her family said. A landing support specialist for combat operations, she was scheduled to leave Iraq on March 1 and return to Okinawa, where she had been stationed. She is the fourth servicewoman from Maryland to die in Iraq.

She enlisted in the Marines a few months after graduation, following in the footsteps of her older brother.

While in high school, Corporal Parcell excelled in art and was elected to the senior executive council.

"She was the behind-the-scenes person who helped make things happen," Mr. Galeone said.

Chemistry was not her strongest suit, Mr. Galeone said, but she studied diligently and came prepared to class.

"She was a petite young lady, always smiling and gregarious, not the kind of girl you would envision as a Marine," he said. "But she took a military aptitude test in her junior year. To know what you wanted to do mid-high school shows she was focused."

When he learned Corporal Parcell was working toward a college degree and taking online courses while in Iraq, he said it made sense, given her determination.

The family plans a military funeral at Mount Calvary Free Will Baptist Church in Aberdeen. Corporal Parcell attended services regularly with her family while she was growing up and was well-known among the members of the small congregation. She attended whenever she returned home and in June posed for a photo at the church, a congregation member said.

Corporal Parcell was the third Fallston graduate to die in combat. Marine Lance Cpl. Patrick Ryan Adle, 21, died in June 2004, and Army Staff Sgt. William A. Allers III, 28, died in September 2005.

The atmosphere that prevailed on campus Friday is all too familiar to the school community, Principal Kevin Fleming said.

"Even though only seniors would know her, the mood at the school is somber," he said. "There is a definite impact on the faculty and a good deal of discussion going on in classrooms. It's more quiet than normal."

The message on the marquee in front of the school often proclaims a student's accomplishment or lists a coming event. But on Friday, it read:

Fallen Cougar

Cpl. Jen Parcell USMC

Feb. 7, 2007

Anbar, Iraq

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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