CLARKS SUMMIT — Inside VFW Post No. 7069, Tom Kreidler and Michael McLane remember David Parker.
McLane opens a red-bound book to a page filled with the faces of young men in uniform. They are the men of Platoon 210, each clad in the distinctive dress blue uniforms of Marines. His finger finds Parker’s photo, directly under McLane’s on the page.
Kreidler knew Parker before the Marine Corps and recalls the days of their youth, when he, Parker and other children roamed the streets around the borough’s VFW. Parker came from a big family and grew up on Greenwood Avenue. They spent their days playing Little League and sandlot football, Kreidler said.
According to Kreidler and McLane, Parker was a quiet person, but one you could depend on.
“Dave would not stand out in a crowd, but he was the kind of person you’d want to have your back,” McLane said.
Feb. 28 marked the 50th anniversary of Parker’s death in Vietnam. Last Thursday, family and friends gathered at his grave for a memorial service to mark the occasion.
Parker, a 1967 graduate of Abington Heights High School, never talked much to him about what led him to enlist in the Marine Corps back in January 1968, Kreidler said.
McLane, an Olyphant native, Parker, Michael Shuemaker of Jessup and Russ Kaub of Scranton all enlisted in the Marine Corps around the same time. Their recruiters arranged for them to attend boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina on the buddy program.
While McLane and Shuemaker grew up together, they didn’t know Parker and Kaub, but the four of them became fast friends. Being from the same area proved a comfort during boot camp and the four would often offer signs of acknowledgement to one another outside the watchful eyes of their drill instructors.
“I can remember in the squad bay, or if we were doing physical training, we’d actually look at each other because we could relate and we had this bond, and then we’d wink,” McLane said. “There was a camaraderie right from the beginning.”
A good recruit, Parker navigated the challenges at boot camp, McLane said. After graduating from boot camp in April 1968, the four attended infantry training in North Carolina and jungle training at Camp Pendleton in California. They were inseparable and spent weekends together at the beach, McLane said. Military life seemed to suit Parker; he once said he wouldn’t mind staying in the Marine Corps, McLane said.
They went to Vietnam together in late 1968.
There, the four local men split up. Parker, who rose to the rank of lance corporal, got orders for First Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment. He ended up in Charlie Company, a rifle company with the unit. Parker and his comrades operated in a tactical zone called I Corps, located in the northernmost provinces of what was then South Vietnam, an area bordering North Vietnam and Laos.
On Feb. 28, 1969, Parker and the other men of Charlie Company operated in Quang Tri province, about 8,400 miles from Clarks Summit, and his squad came under enemy small arms fire from North Vietnamese soldiers. Parker and three other Marines were killed in the firefight. He was 19 years old.
Both Kreidler and McLane were heartbroken to hear of Parker’s death. McLane wouldn’t learn the sad news until about a month afterward, after he suffered wounds in Vietnam.
Kreidler enlisted in the Air Force and received the news while stationed in North Dakota. He traveled home for the funeral to find a community shocked and saddened by the loss of one of their own. He and three other borough residents, all friends and neighbors of Parkers and each representing a different branch of the armed service, served as pall bearers. Parker is buried at Abington Hills Cemetery in South Abington Township.
“It was pretty somber, to say the least,” Kreidler said.
Tributes to Parker’s sacrifice are still visible in Clarks Summit. Dave Parker Memorial Stadium on Sheridan Avenue is named for him. The borough sold the property last month, but a provision of the sale calls for the land to include a plaque honoring Parker.
The Parker-Wescott Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge in Clarks Summit is also named for him and Richard Wescott, a Dalton sailor killed in the Vietnam War. The VFW post recently placed a plaque inside the building in Parker’s memory. In addition, the borough plans to dedicate a memorial in his memory at the Veterans Park.
For those who knew and served with Parker, it doesn’t seem possible 50 years have passed since he died. They often think of their fallen friend, McLane and Kreidler said.
“Even 50 years later, it doesn’t make it easier,” McLane said. “It really is like it happened yesterday.”
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The Vietnam War
■ 58, 220 deaths, including 40,934 service members killed in action
■ 3,147 Pennsylvanians died in the Vietnam War
— National Archives
■ 1,589 missing in action
— Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency