Camp Foster community mourns 'Devil Dog' killed in Iraq
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Cpl. Jennifer Parcell was petite, but one learned quickly that underestimating her was foolish.
“She was an absolute firecracker,” Master Sgt. Jerry Widner said. “Just a go-getting machine.”
Her relentless can-do attitude led her to volunteer for Iraq. And then to volunteer for the Lioness Program, which provides female Marines for searches of Iraqi women to respect Muslim cultural mores.
Parcell was killed Feb. 7 in Anbar province when a woman she was searching blew herself up with a suicide vest. Parcell had started doing the searches a week before and was three weeks from going home.
The 20-year-old Marine from Bel Air, Md., was a landing-support specialist with Combat Logistics Regiment 3, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
At a memorial service Tuesday at the Camp Foster chapel, Lance Cpl. Stephen Colon read a letter Parcell’s friend Cpl. Jeffrey Radcliff wrote from Iraq.
Though her small frame was far from intimidating, Radcliff wrote, Parcell “proved [that] not the size or the sex of the person mattered one bit.” She never shied from physically demanding tasks; she “would jump right in there with the guys,” he said.
Radcliff recalled how after spending his first four months on the job in the Corps with only male Marines, he forgot there were such things as female Devil Dogs.
He wrote he hadn’t thought women even should be allowed to be Marines, but when he met Parcell, his “dim-witted thought was completely erased forever.”
First Sgt. Lenny Maldonado, Parcell’s former company first sergeant, recalled in an e-mail from Iraq that at her arrival at Landing Support Company, “She looked so young and innocent.”
But soon he was watching an “extremely confident” young Marine do Helicopter Support Team training. “She … loved being under them birds (CH-46),” he wrote. “I smiled to myself and realized I was watching the future of the Corps being shaped.”
Maj. Ken Quiner, addressing the packed chapel in a voice shaken by grief, said when he learned Parcell was coming to his unit, he was concerned how a female would fit in with his male Marines — worries quickly dismissed, he said, when Parcell immediately won them over and became their “honorary little sister.”
But the dedicated and eager-to-learn Parcell did send some sparks flying among her leaders, he said.
“I recall very many long and heated battles between Marine leaders who all wanted Cpl. Parcell on their team,” Quiner said.
Tears welled when he described how she beamed when wearing her dress blues and couldn’t keep from smiling when being promoted to lance corporal.
As he spoke, a slideshow of photos played on a large screen behind him — casual snapshots of a 20-year-old’s life: Parcell belting out karaoke; in cammies with a fellow Marine; with a putter resting on her shoulder; stoic-faced carrying a giant pack; smiling with her rifle; on a helicopter.
She was getting an associate’s degree and went to yoga classes.
Radcliff’s letter told an amusing anecdote that got a chuckle from the somber audience and gave a sense of who Parcell was.
One night out on an Okinawa club’s dance floor, he turned to find Parcell twisting like Chubby Checker to Snoop Dogg’s hip-hop hit, “Drop It Like It’s Hot.”
That was Parcell, Radcliff wrote: Always living in the moment.