Thank you to every veteran for their service in protecting our freedoms.
Gentry Parker was a fellow impact traveler that I met on my Fathom cruise last May. We were randomly assigned to the same cohort group – a small team of passengers led by one of the crew where we were given tools and knowledge to help us get the most out of our Fathom experience. I was immediately drawn to Gentry; her southern accent and warm personality were captivating. Not to mention that she wore a dress to our first meeting when the rest of us were in shorts and flip flops. As I got to know Gentry, I found out that her confidence and strength was due in part to her 14 years of service in the United States Army.
Gentry (she was named after her grandmother’s family name) was born and raised in North Carolina. Her decision to join the Army was impulsive. Her first husband was a lieutenant pilot for the Air Force. When he was deployed in 1986, Gentry went back home. She attended a party with her sister where there were a lot of men in Army uniforms. The next day – without telling her husband – she went and enlisted in the Army. She figured it wouldn’t be a problem because she would graduate from boot camp two weeks before he was due home and she could tell him in person then. Unfortunately, her plan was foiled because he came home two weeks early!!
What was Gentry’s assignment in the Army Reserve? She was trained for the Military Police (something she said she would never do in civilian life), providing combat support. She served on infantry training weekends and annual trainings and even spent 4-8 weeks in the Philippines doing jungle training – twice.
During her deployment, Gentry lay defense perimeters and saw war up close. The first bodies she had to deal with were those of civilians that unfortunately had gotten “in the way.” Gentry related the story of how with one dead Iraqi soldier, she saved his family picture, ID tag, and a handwritten letter, and kept them all in her lockbox so that she could “stay grounded.”
From her personal experience on the battle front, Gentry said, “Media and the government made it look like it was better than it was. I didn’t have a shower the whole time I was there.” And if it was up to her, she would have had “the government finish the job instead of go back like they did.”
Since leaving active duty with the Army Reserves and becoming a retired veteran, Gentry has worked as a lobbyist, in the travel business and opened a community pharmacy specializing in helping to fill prescriptions for those with mental health issues. Today, she lives in Corinth, Mississippi with her second husband and their two children and has a home-based travel business. She has also started a community service organization in her area called “In His Honor.”
From being a veteran, Gentry loves to travel and to serve. She has been on dozens of mission trips to places like Mexico, Nicaragua, and Ecuador. To her, service is a part of life. She feels that “Americans are spoiled” and that everyone should be required to spend a minimum of 2 years giving back because “giving service changes your whole mindset.”
Gentry went on the Fathom cruise by herself. Her kids were taking their finals and her husband stayed behind to take care of them. She didn’t want to miss out on the unique experience of cruising and giving back that Fathom offers. Gentry was impressed how “the crew was so vivacious and energetic and was natural at bringing all these different people together.”
In all, Gentry participated in 6 service activities during our Fathom trip including water purification, recycling and laying concrete floors. Of her Fathom experience, Gentry felt that she “got more than I gave,” and that it provided the perfect opportunity to be “more compassionate and caring in reaching out to different cultures.”
Thank you Gentry Parker for your courage and service as a veteran and for continuing to remind us through your example that “when you build relationships through service, you are building lives.”