Community honors fallen Marine

February 18, 2007|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Reporter

While a lengthy line of vehicles made its way to Bel Air Memorial Gardens for the burial of a fallen Marine, hundreds stood on sidewalks with hands over their hearts or saluting.

Mourners saw signs with words of comfort, flags waving and traffic respectfully waiting for them to pass.

Volunteer firefighters parked two firetrucks, one each from companies in Bel Air and Fallston, at a busy intersection along the funeral procession route. They raised ladders and joined them to form a towering arch. From the top was hung a large American flag, which the procession passed slowly under.

The family and friends of Marine Cpl. Jennifer M. Parcell, 20, who died Feb. 7 in Iraq, said they found solace in the poignant displays.

"It was so comforting to see so many people," said Martha Benton, Corporal Parcell's aunt.

At services at Oak Grove Baptist Church in Bel Air on Friday, speakers stood before an enormous American flag that filled the back wall of the sanctuary and recalled the petite young woman who graduated from Fallston High School and followed her older brother, Joseph, into the Marine Corps.

In his eulogy, Cpl. Joseph Parcell said, "My sister touched a lot of lives. She constantly put other people first and I never heard her ask for anything in return."

The siblings' paths crossed in Iraq last fall before he returned to his base in North Carolina. She introduced her brother to her boyfriend, Cpl. James Acevedo, who was given leave from combat in Iraq to attend the funeral.

"All we know is that one moment she was standing on cold, hard sand and rocks, and the next she was on heaven's streets of gold," said Joseph Parcell.

Steve Wampler, a family friend, recited messages from Jennifer Parcell's e-mails. In the last one, which arrived two days before her death, the combat support specialist said she would be out of touch for a few days as "duty, honor and country called."

The Rev. Dennis Keen, Jennifer Parcell's pastor, recalled "the sweet little girl who grew up in our church and gave her life in service to her country."

He called on the congregation to emulate "our sister's good qualities so that maybe a bit of her can live on in you and me." Her homegoing service celebrated her military life and her sacrifice, Mr. Keen said.

"Jennifer lived and worked for a cause," he said. "Regardless of the outcome of this war, she did her job to help others to have freedom and to know a country like our country."

Maj. Kenneth Quiner made the trip to Maryland from Okinawa, where he was Jennifer Parcell's commanding officer.

"Her job was a dangerous one, but she never balked and never took the easy way," Major Quiner said. "She volunteered for the cold, miserable, harder jobs and went about it with energy, passion and a smile."

Fellow Marines filled five pews in the church, served as pallbearers and presented the family with a Purple Heart.

"You have our deepest gratitude for sharing her with the Marine Corps," Major Quiner said.

About 30 members of the Patriot Guard, a group of motorcyclists that often stands watch at military funerals, lined the entrance to the church holding American flags. They waited in bitter cold for nearly three hours and then joined the funeral procession.

Caitlin Parnes, 12, came from Calvert County with her father, Brian Parnes, the lead rider in the Patriot Guard.

"I didn't know Corporal Parcell, but I respect what she did for our country," Caitlin said.

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