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Soldier would go to Iraq 'all over again'

June 30, 2010
Brandon Parr is back home in Indiana. Since he was a young boy, Parr has wanted to make a career of the military. And after a deployment in Iraq, he is still determined to follow through with those plans.

Brandon Parr
In a recent story published in the Clarion News, Buddy Payton, a National Guard soldier from Marengo, told about being injured by an IED while on a convoy in Iraq. Payton suffered a concussion, along with other injuries, in the explosion that kept him in a Fort Knox, Ky., hospital for more than a year. He is home now, out of the military, and back at work at his old job.

Parr, who is from Leavenworth, also is a National Guard soldier and served with Payton in Iraq. Parr was on the convoy with Payton, but on a different truck, when the IED exploded. He was the first one to reach the burning truck after the explosion and worked to extinguish the blaze and help his fellow soldiers.

Parr, who attended Crawford County Junior-Senior High School, joined the National Guard in February 2006 and was assigned to the Tell City unit. In 2008, he was deployed to Iraq. His unit, which included Payton, spent three weeks in Kuwait.

"It was 130 degrees there when we landed," Parr said. "We stayed there and trained, just to get used to the heat. We were then sent to Iraq, and it was 10 degrees cooler there."

The unit's job was to travel with, and guard, supply convoys moving between bases in Iraq. They usually went on three or four convoys a week.

"The trip Buddy was hurt, we were returning to base, about 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning," Parr said. "I was the driver of the truck just behind the one Buddy was in. He was a gunner and was riding on top of a truck. When the IED exploded, the shock wave hit my chest and knocked me back in my seat. It actually stopped our truck. Almost immediately, there was smoke everywhere. I thought they were dead. They didn't answer the radio. I then drove through the smoke and saw their truck almost completely engulfed in flames."

Parr grabbed a fire extinguisher and tried to beat the flames back. He saw Payton lying on the ground. Another friend from Crawford County, Peter Garcia, was also on the truck, but made it out without being seriously injured. Payton was bleeding but was able to get away from the burning truck. Parr used up his fire extinguisher, and the flames returned almost immediately.

"The truck was so hot, it went back up in flames," Parr said. "We walked down the road and found some parts of the bomb, then got away from the burning truck because ammunition was going off in the fire. We watched it burn for a few hours until we got enough fire extinguishers to put it out. We then went back to the base. Peter and Buddy were checked out, and Buddy was sent on to a hospital. My truck had been hit about three weeks before, but it only blew out the windshield of a truck behind us. We were lucky."

The unit kept guarding convoys during the remainder of Parr's deployment.

"We actually got used to it," Parr said. "We had plenty of IED training and knew what to look for and where to look, where they hid them. We had mission briefs all the time and knew where the 'hot spots' were. There were several trucks blown up while we were there, but the armor the trucks are equipped with does a pretty good job. And some of the bombs are small, just able to blow out tires. But some were serious and packed a pretty big blast."

Parr said that most Iraqis were friendly and were happy to see the soldiers there.

"Every once in a while, we'd see a guy who didn't like us, but most were friendly. And we were shown pictures of people to look out for. So, it wasn't all that bad."

"It was probably harder on me," said Parr's mom, Vonda. "Sometimes he'd call home every two or three days, then I wouldn't hear from him for a couple of weeks. It was harder at night, because your mind just wonders what's going on, what's happening, is he all right. He's all I have. And I'm so proud of him."

Parr came home on Dec. 7, took some time off and went back to work. He's now a part-time National Guard recruiter in Jasper, but another deployment isn't far off. He is determined to make a career of the National Guard and will be sent to Afghanistan in the next several months.

"You get used to it after a while," he said. "Iraq became almost like a second home. I'd do it all over again if I needed to. I believe the good outweighs the bad. And besides, the day I signed up for the National Guard was the day I knew I wanted to make it a career."

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