By Glen Paddie, The Fort Campbell CourierJuly 29, 2011
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky., July 29, 2011--Clairfield, Tenn., resident and former Soldier, Bobby Parker lived what he preached " by example.
Unfortunately, Parker’s recent passing has placed him as a fallen friend…of the fallen.
Parker’s subtle work to recognize the fallen won’t be forgotten, nor will the energy he displayed toward his cause just two days before his death.
“Soldiers give us our freedom, police officers and firemen give us our quality of freedom and when any one of them loses their life in the line of duty, they need to be remembered,” said Parker.
“Freedom is not free, it is bought with a heavy price and that is why I started Fallen Friend in 1985.”
Parker said it’s truly the Families that pay the heavier price for freedom because they are left behind to deal with the grief of a fallen loved one.
“The Families of these men and women pay a price for freedom that the average American can’t even fathom,” said Parker. “Their children, wives, husbands and parents all pay that heavy price.”
Parker noted Fallen Friend is just his way of being obedient to God by loving his neighbor the best way he can.
“You see, I lost my son when he was 22 months old, so I know what it feels like,” said Parker. “When a parent has to bury one of their own, there is a void spot in their heart and you never get over that.”
Parker said because of his loss, he realized everyday became Memorial Day to him and when he got old enough to realize the sacrifices made by our Soldiers, he realized everyday should be Veteran’s Day.
“Since starting Fallen Friend, I’ve talked to a lot of mothers and fathers who’ve lost their children to war or crime and I know what they feel in a way, so I just cry with them over the phone and try to comfort them,” he said. “Fallen Friend has basically become a ministry for me.”
Parker added he got his information on the fallen from sites like www.militarytimes.com and www.odmp.org, which is a memorial page for fallen police officers.
Parker said he was a news fan and when reports of the fallen come over his television, they hit him in the heart.
“Then you have the good news, too, like that show Coming Home,” he said. “My daughter and I will sit here and watch that and just weep together.”
Parker said he paid attention to the fallen across the nation. However, his heart was always close to Fort Campbell due to it being somewhat near his hometown.
“There are two young Soldiers that stay on my mind a lot from Fort Campbell and that is Thomas Tucker and Kristian Menchaca, who lost their lives in Iraq together,” he said. “I have spoken to Menchaca’s Family in Texas several times.”
Parker said it’s because of men like Tucker and Menchaca that our nation isn’t fenced in and we have the freedoms we enjoy.
“I have had the privilege of raising up my Family in a God-fearing nation because men and women who wear the uniform are willing to lay down their lives for me,” he said. “That is humbling.”
Parker said the economy hit Fallen Friend hard and he was unable to send as many medals out as he once did.
“There are times when I take the money out of my social security and pay for them when I can,” he added. “We also do not take any donations from Families who have lost loved ones, either.”
The medals sent out to the Families from Parker all have four things in common on them.
“The Bell, a crack, the hands and the bar are on each medallion,” said Parker. “The Bell represents our country, the crack represents our differences as a people, the hands represent the people and the bar represents the thin thread which is holding our country together.”
Parker’s thick East Tennessee mountain accent was no veneer for his desire for our nation to be as one.
“Our military is diversified, our nation is diversified and if our nation is to survive, we must unite together to accomplish the needs and goals of all of our citizens by respecting one another,” said Parker. “Even bigger than that is we must learn to love one another.”
Parker said the only winner in war is death and the survivors are scarred for life and he hoped that the wars would end, but admitted he was a realist.
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends,” said Parker. “This has been a truth for over 2,000 years and it hasn’t changed today.”
Bobby Parker died living out what he preached at 78 years-old.
Parker’s daughter, Cindy said there might not be a way to continue Fallen Friend without its best friend running it.
“My Dad began to realize through the scriptures and through Fallen Friend that we are all neighbors in the world, some just live across the street and other many miles away,” she added. “He wanted me to continue the program, but I’m not sure he can be replaced.”
Cindy said her dad was a man on a mission to show the Families of the fallen, Wounded Warriors, active-duty personnel and veteran’s that they were appreciated.
“He knew we all had more in common with one another than we realized and he spent much of his life pursuing that fact,” added Cindy. “When someone who doesn’t know you is willing to die for your freedom, then someone who doesn’t know you can comfort you in your pain, as well.”
To find out more about the Fallen Friend organization, go to www.fallenfriend.com.