The words of U.S. administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, spoken upon confirmation of the recent capture of Saddam Hussein, “Ladies and gentlemen… We got him,” struck a chord in the hearts of Iraqis and Americans, including the Key Peninsula family of Staff Sgt. Li Gordon Parshall.
Parshall is a combat engineer deployed since January 2003. He has been stationed “somewhere in Iraq” since February with the 671st Engineer Corps, a U.S. Army reserve unit, “but he can’t tell us where,” said Parshall’s mother, Barbara Bence. Bence said Li’s wife of eight years, Anne, called her to share the good news. “Maybe this means Li can come home soon,” said Anne.
Parshall may get a short stateside leave in March, but was disappointed he couldn’t come home for Christmas. “We are trying to have a merry Christmas,” Sgt. Parshall told the Key Peninsula News via email from Iraq. “It is not too bad; however, it isn’t home,” he said, adding that his company may be leaving the area within two or three months. He said they hoped the recent capture would lessen the attacks on the U.S. soldiers.
“Where I am located, we receive a mortar attack almost daily, but most of us are so used to the explosions that unless they come close, we are not too worried.”
Home to the 47-year old Parshall is the Lake Minterwood neighborhood. His grandfather retired from Peninsula Light Co. after working there many years. Parshall attended Peninsula High School, as did his father, Winn Parshall, now living in New Mexico. Li’s sisters, Cheryl Johnson, Laurel Parshall and Virginia Jenkins, all live within seven miles of their mother, for whom Iraq seems a world away. Parshall keeps in touch by phone, email, and snail mail. The family is frustrated that letters take so long to arrive, about two weeks going to Iraq but more than a month for the reply.
“Li loves news from home,” his mother says, so she sends him the Key Peninsula News. “His specialty is bridge construction,” said Bence, “so I clip and send him articles about the progress on the new (Tacoma) Narrows Bridge.”
Parshall is stepfather to 18-year-old Jessica and 13-year-old Seth, for whom he served as scoutmaster during the elementary school years. Jessica has taken on a lot of responsibility for household chores since Li left.
“It’s been really hard without him being here,” she said. Her mother has multiple sclerosis, with its episodic debilitating effects. Jessica is very proud of her stepdad: “I miss him and I love him.” “There is a family support group, but attending monthly meetings is hard because they are so far away,” Jessica added. The family attends New Hope Community and Fox Island Alliance churches.
Bence, who lives near Key Center, keeps busy oil painting with palette knife and singing with the Key Singers, and tries not to worry too much about Li. She describes him as “a man of actions instead of words” who “acts upon his beliefs.”
Bence said she is proud of her son. “I’m proud of all the boys. They’re doing a good job over there.” Morale is high among the troops, and Li told his family recently, “Now I know why I’m over here. All the Iraqi people are so glad they’ve been freed from Saddam Hussein.”