I know a hero. His name is Tyler Parten. Let me tell you about him.
“These things happen” is something often heard around any Army unit. It is usually the unspoken truth that most Soldiers carry within them, tucked away in a hidden place treated with reverence and to be explored only in the most private and isolated of spaces. Of course, the “things” that happen are the inevitable deaths of those who we have eaten with, lived with, served with and were friends with. It is bound to happen in times of war, particularly in the war with two fronts we find ourselves in, and today it happened to me. Today I found out that my AOBC classmate and friend, 1LT Tyler Parten, fell in battle in Afghanistan protecting his nation and its people.
I found out after lunch, as I leafed through Stars and Stripes. As I always do, I look at the casualty list in the hopes that I wouldn’t recognize any names. Today as I stared dumbstruck at the name on the page I felt a horrible knot in my stomach and was smacked in the face with several emotions. I wrestled with the idea of writing anything public for the better part of the day. After all, there are far more people out there that knew Parten a great deal better than I. What right do I have to feel loss? I have recognized names in the Army Times and Stars and Stripes before. I have also known too many officers I have worked with that passed away due to accidents and even suicide. The difference this time around is that he is…was…IS a comrade and a friend and I do feel the loss of someone special. Writing this, in the hopes that people that never knew him will know what type of man he is, makes me feel better. So I am going to write.
Parten was a larger than life type of person. He thoroughly enjoyed a good joke and was not above debasing himself in the juvenile pursuit of making others break out in spasms of laughter. He was fun to be around and welcome relief in those times when The Suck was taking its toll. He was also a professional dedicated to his craft and of single minded purposefulness in his efforts to eradicate those who had inflicted harm on our nation on 9/11.
I met him at Fort Knox during AOBC. We were in the same platoon during tank, recon and COE phase. After he graduated and I was left at Knox to rot with injury, we emailed as we were both adjutants with our respective units. As with AOBC, we mixed business and stupidity with alarming ease. We commiserated and offered each encouragement through our predicaments, he, waiting for a platoon at Fort Carson, and I, trying to heal my ever-present stress fractures and graduate from BOLC III. He wasn’t ADJ for long and did get the platoon he waited for and seemed more than overjoyed.
One memory I have of Tyler that came to me almost immediately upon learning of the news was our AOBC class’s first mission in the CCTT (a full scale tank simulator). Undoubtedly, we knew we would not fare well and our foreboding was justified. Who was the sacrificial victim that was to be thrown to the wolves, better known as Black 6s? None other than Tyler Parten. Of course, initially we did not do too badly. The 6s and the civilian technicians took it easy on us and we clumsily defeated an enemy tank platoon set on stupid. But soon things went awry and Tyler found himself in a rapidly deteriorating situation where his bravo section was somewhere getting hammered by AT-5s and his driver kept going in circles. Having been thrown into sheer chaos, Tyler forgot the proper reporting format to Black 6 and was fumbling his words. The ever testy SFC Theim, in his most condescending tone, asked if there was another, presumably proper, way of describing the happenstance of Red Platoon being annihilated by an enemy Mechanized Infantry Company and T-80U platoon. Tyler composed himself, undoubtedly took a deep breath, and said, clearly and confidently: “Black 6, we’re FUCKED!” Even the curmudgeonly Theim laughed. Most people would have been horribly embarrassed by the performance and radio feux pas, but not Tyler. As with all things, he merely laughed it off and endeavored to do better the next time (he did).
Those who don’t know people in the military truly have no idea the sacrifice that Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines make to protect this nation. While fringe nuts and seditious Democratic Congressmen are doing their best to lose our wars, our servicemen and women lead stressed out, exhausting existences in every hellhole found on this sordid globe. Families suffer with their loved ones so far away and live for emails and phone calls. Too many families experience the ultimate pain and most horrific loss. For them the name on the news or in the paper is neither a statistic, nor another numeric measure of success or failure. To them, that name represents the end of their world as they have known it and a future devoid of the warmth and joy of their loved one. We Americans put too much into sports stars and celebrities by calling them heroes. I am no hero, nor is any other Soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are merely doing our jobs. The only true heroes are the brave men and women who will never see another sunrise, smell the sweetness of a summer day or feel the warm embrace of a tearful and joyous reunion.
I leave off with another recollection from AOBC. During dismounted recon STX Tyler and I were tasked with scouting the next rally point/training site. We stealthily covered the 500 meters or so to the coordinates given to us. As we neared the correct grid we saw our civilian instructors pull up to the clump of trees that was our destination, get out, light up a smoke and begin chatting. These men between them had around 50 years of scouting experience and we both resolved to sneak up on them and report back to our platoon. Slowly, and only crawling through the tall grass when the wind shook the branches in the trees, Tyler and I creeped up until, finally, we were within a mere 20 feet of the trio. I radioed our PL and in hushed tones whispered that we had arrived at the rally point and that we had snuck up on our erstwhile instructors (still oblivious). Tyler and I grinned at each other and shared one sublime moment of joint understanding where our newbie self-doubt evaporated. Maybe we were going to do alright at this profession. Maybe we weren’t as hopeless as we were sometimes led to believe. Maybe we would, someday soon, make worthy tank or scout platoon leaders.
Well, it came to pass, at least in Tyler’s case. Though he had to suffer the indignity of serving as battalion adjutant before getting his platoon, he no doubt savored every moment at Fort Carson as an armor officer. He was a fine leader and an even better human being. No person deserves the sobriquet of hero more than him. He will be greatly missed.
I know a hero. His name is Tyler Parten. I will never forget him.
Lay down your burdens brother, it is time to rest. You have strove much and given more. You have given us laughter and you have protected us. Rest now and know we are eternally grateful.