HAZELWOOD, Mo. – Rev. Earl Nance Jr. joined family and friends at Archway Memorial Chapel to honor a teenager taken far too young – 79 years ago.
Isaac Parker was just 17 when he was killed while aboard the USS Oklahoma on December 7, 1941.
“After 80 years, he’s back reunited with his family,” said Angela Curtis, Parker’s niece. St. Louis wasn’t his home. He was born and raised in Woodson, Arkansas. He left there and went to the Navy and didn’t get to come back home. But his parents are buried here, and his sisters and brothers are buried here at this cemetery, so it is like coming home to family.”
On what would have been his 97th birthday, the former Navy Mess Attendant 3rd Class received full military honors rendered.
It was a long time coming for this sailor, who had been buried as an unknown at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.
“He did not want to be a farmer,” Curtis said. “Woodson is a small farming community. So, he joined the Navy so he could see the world and get an education.”
Parker’s mother and father, a sister, two brothers, and oldest nephew, are all buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency’s USS Oklahoma Project utilized samples from relatives, as well as DNA, to identify Parker’s remains.
“His body remains were not identifiable with the technology they had at that time,” said Commander Kris Hooper, Navy Public Affairs Officer. “So, the fact that they haven’t forgotten or given up and the technology finally caught up with the remains they had. They were finally able to identify with family members and their DNA samples. So, literally his own family found him.”
“Actually, we didn’t believe it when I was first contacted by mail,” Curtis said. “It asked for my DNA, so I was reluctant to do so. But we have other members of our family in the military that were able to verify this was something they were doing and try to identify the unknowns. So, they asked for our DNA from several members of the family.”
And a family who never knew Isaac Parker but understood his sacrifice and how it shaped them for generations, now has another chapter in their family tree, and a story to pass down to the next generation.
“I do feel good that he is in his final resting place surrounded by his family,” Curtis said. “I do thank the military and their commitment for trying to send his remains home.”