By Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Smith, USD-S Public AffairsDecember 15, 2010
When Marvin Parker graduated high school in 1982, he wasn't sure what he wanted to do, but he knew he didn't want to go straight into college.
One day a few weeks after graduation, on a fateful trip through his hometown of Grenada, Miss., he spotted a good friend of his in an Army recruiting station. He went in to talk to his friend, and almost thirty years later, Parker, now a sergeant major, has been enjoying his military career ever since.
"I'm still having fun with it, I love being around Soldiers, just interacting with them, talking to them, laughing and joking with them," Parker said. "When I joined, my intent was to do three years and just to see how the Army was. I guess I was blessed. I went to Fort Hood, everything was clicking for me, and I had an excellent chain of command who took me under their wing. I was a private, and I had sergeants first class and master sergeants mentoring me. I thought, they taught me my job real well, I'm getting promoted; the Army seems like it's pretty easy."
So Parker, who has served as a unit supply specialist in Germany, Korea, Fort Hood and Fort Carson before coming to the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley as the sustainment sergeant major in 2008, has made a career for himself in the military, along with his friend, who served 23 years before retiring.
Now, Parker advises junior Soldiers who are thinking about making the military a career to do what he did - just have fun with it.
"If you like it stay in; the military's not for everybody, but they give you so many opportunities. Enjoy it while you can," he said. "Don't do it for the money; it'll take years. When I was a private, my base pay was about $500. It isn't the money. Do it because you enjoy it, learn your job to perfection and then just try to go on up the ranks."
After being in the Army for almost three decades, one may think Parker has already achieved everything he wants before retirement, but he's still bettering himself through higher education and is scheduled to graduate with a bachelor's degree in business management and business administration in May.
Parker has been advising his Soldiers to further their education by quoting a legendary boxer.
"I have an old saying that I use that I got from Muhammad Ali: 'Go to college and get the knowledge and stay there 'til you're through. If they can make penicillin out of moldy bread, they sure can make something out of you,'" he said.
"I preach that all the time. When I was a first sergeant, at one time, I had everyone in my company enrolled in college courses, 100 percent, for about eight months."
Now, as Parker looks back on his military career and to the future, he finally does retire, it's going to be with a little bit of a heavy heart.
"My time is coming to a close. All that's left now is to mentor my supply personnel about doing the right thing. I'm really still enjoying this," he said. "It's going to be a sad day when I drop my retirement papers and actually take this uniform off for good after being in thirty years."