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Battle at the Capital goes beyond showcasing football

Wounded veteran to be honored at Del Oro
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Sports reporter Sara Seyydin caught up with wounded veteran Lance Corporal Thomas Parker, 21, originally from Ronan, Mont. to interview him about his experience serving in the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan. Parker will be honored at the Battle of the Capital Football Showcase, which begins Friday at Del Oro High School. Battle at the Capital organizer Mark Soto said Parker was chosen because he is a particularly inspiring young man. Local talent abounds in the three days of games. Bear River faces off against Procter R. Hug at 2 p.m. on Saturday. In the headlining game, Del Oro is scheduled to battle it out against Westlake at 8 p.m. on Saturday. On Sunday, the Placer County Sheriff’s and Nevada County Sheriff’s offices will duke it out for bragging rights in the Battle of the Badges Memorial Football Game. Soto said proceeds from the showcase benefit the Battle at the Capital non-profit organization, designed to provide vital programs and services to severely wounded veterans. His goal is for the money raised through the organization to help local veterans. Seyydin’s conversation with Parker follows. Q: What was your background prior to deploying? A: I had a lot of family in the Marine Corps. I was working to become an arborist and my friend pointed me in the direction of the Marine Corps. I went to boot camp Feb. 23, 2009. I went to recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot. After that I went to school of infantry at Camp Pendleton. After SOI I got sent to 3trd battalion, 5th Marine Lima Company, where I completed my work-up. Q: What happened in your experience in Afghanistan? A: I deployed late September to Afghanistan. I conducted operations for about three months. Dec. 11 I stepped on my (improvised explosive device). We had had a mission we had gone on and completed. We were on our way back to our patrol base. I stepped on it pretty close to patrol base. Q: What was going through your mind when you stepped on the IED? A: When I stepped on it I instantly knew what had happened because I had seen it happen to guys before. I guess not completely instantly. It took a little while for my brain to register it. I got thrown in the air by the explosion. While I was in the air I started thinking more clearly. Your body starts producing a lot of adrenaline. It is like a movie. It makes your thinking more clear, so you can realize what is happening. The rocks and dirt where 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: They flew me to Camp Leatherneck, the main operating base in Afghanistan. From there I went to Lawnstool, Germany. I was intubated the whole time between Dec. 11 and Dec. 14, in a medically induced coma. Sometime the evening of Dec. 14 is when I woke up the first time. I wasn’t really sure what had happened. I thought, ‘was that a dream?’ I told my mom she couldn’t be there. I thought I was still in Afghanistan. As a result of the explosion, I lost the majority of my right leg, just above the knee and my left leg is amputated at the hip joint. I lost my index finger and lost all my fingers. Q: How did you react when you realized how badly you had been injured? A: At the time being I didn’t really have a thought process. There was a lot of stuff 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. You know, I’m still here. I’m still breathing and having this conversation with you. There is a positive. 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: When you left for Afghanistan did you ever really think this would happen to you? A: I thought I would either come back or not come back. 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. Even while I was over I never thought it was going to happen. Over there 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: Now that you are home do people give you respect and honor you as a hero? A: The American populace as a whole is a lot more supportive of the military, a lot more than in Vietnam. People used to spit on veterans when they came back from there and call them baby-killers. I do get a large amount of respect. Did I do what I did for the respect or do I expect respect? No. I’m grateful when I do get it, but I didn’t do it because of that. I show the same respect to anybody who has joined the military who is going to deploy. 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: Right now the main thing on my agenda is get my rehab done, get as mobile and independent as I can, then we’ll see. 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 camaraderie. I enjoy the Marine Corps as a whole. It’s a matter of getting mobile and independent. Q: What are you most looking forward to about the Battle at the Capital? A: The support, not so much for me, but the military in general. I’ve been involved with a couple of fundraisers. I help put together some care packages. The level of support that people show is amazing. It blows my mind that there is that many people that care. It’s sad to say there are some people who are just ‘me, me, me. They got wounded whatever.’ To see the level of caring still there is pretty amazing. Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com.