Montana Army veteran reflects on the time in Afghanistan
RONAN – Tomy Parker, originally from Ronan, returned to Montana 10 years ago after serving in Afghanistan.
Longtime residents may remember the moving return to Missoula International Airport when the young Marine arrived and was quickly surrounded by cheers and proud members of the community. In a 2011 clip, Parker told MTN News, “There are emotions flying everywhere.”
Parker joined the Marines after high school. He will tell you that his motive was anything but heroic. At the time, he was just a kid looking for direction. Only 10 days after his 21st birthday, he received his first and last assignment.
“I was deployed to Afghanistan on September 28, 2010, and this was my first deployment and my only deployment,” Parker said. “We deployed to a place called Sangin in Afghanistan which is in Helmand province.”
Call it luck or call it a tragedy, but Parker got out of Afghanistan. However, due to a life-changing injury, the journey he is on today was not always filled with heroic cheers.
“The day I was injured, December 11, 2010, my unit was tasked with detonating improvised explosive devices (improvised explosive devices) that were outside a farmer’s compound. We went there, we blew it up and everything was fine, then as we were almost back to our patrol base, I stepped on an improvised explosive device, which resulted in the amputation of my leg. right just above my knee, my left leg to my hip, and all the fingers on my left hand except my thumb. So ultimately that left me 4ft 2, 220 pounds and brutally good looking. “- Former Marine Tomy Parker.
His battle abroad was over in an instant, but a battle at home was just beginning. Like so many of our nation’s veterans, Parker has been a victim of the harsh reality of life after the war.
“It was a long process and I made it a longer process because I lost direction and purpose in my life for a long time,” Parker said. “I decided to test drugs for almost a decade, starting with opiates, which is the pain relievers prescribed by doctors, and finally moving on to heroin and then to methamphetamine, which led me to be incarcerated for almost 18 months. “
Parker’s life would have been drastically different without Afghanistan, but looking at the sum of his life’s experiences, he knows his sacrifice was worth it.
“There were hundreds of thousands of people who died on both sides, that lost limb, and there were Americans who went out there and fought for soil that we weren’t allowed to. keep, but the intangible impact we could have had on these young lives and generations to come, showing them that they can change their country and that it can be better … I think the juice was worth it sadness. – Ronan’s former Marine Tomy Parker
The decision to withdraw from Afghanistan will be debated for years. Parker suggests we move from argumentation and assessment to caring for a group of returning people, many of whom are in the same position they were 10 years ago.
“What I can talk to are the veterans who are back home, who might be three-quarters of a bottle right now looking at that or looking at their wristbands with their friend’s name on it.” , wondering if it was worth it? Wait while I choke back my tears… It was, ”Parker said, pausing,“ I urge you to find a goal outside of this bottle and keep pushing. My face looks weird because I’m trying not to cry, but it’s getting better, bro. Promise.”