It is not a National Holiday today but there is a special reason to line Main Street in Historic Downtown Vista with American Flags. Today is Sargent-Major Jay Parkers 100th birthday party. Friends, former co-workers and family gathered at the Village Café. Everyone shared laughter, stories and great food with the long time Vista resident and his wife Anne, in honor of his special day. MC Pat Murphy organized the party and introduced all of the special guests and dignitaries.
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This is Jay’s Story as shared on the pamphlet everyone received at the party
On May 2nd, ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO Joseph James ‘Jay’ Parker was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Jay was the oldest of four siblings in an itinerant Midwestern family where survival was primary. At a very young age, Jay worked logging in the woods near his home. When Jay turned sixteen the Great Depression was well underway and Jay left home to forage for himself. His home was a tent typically near the railroad where he would hop box cars to travel and find work. At times when Jay was cold and hungry, he would go to the local jail and ask for a warm place to sleep and eat a hot meal. While riding the rails, an incident with another hobo would change his life forever. His boxcar mate told Jay he was going to join the Marines where there would be a warm place to sleep, three square meals a day and dry boots for his feet. Jay decided the United States Marine Corps was for him.
Jay Parker joined the United States Marine Corps on February 10th, 1937 in New Orleans, LA with initial assignment to MCRD, San Diego for Basic Training and Sea School for shipboard training.
Initial active duty assignment was to Embassy Duty in China followed by 3 1/2 years aboard USS Nevada as Machine Gunner. Jay took an Honorable Discharge in 1938 so he could marry Dee, his wife of 70 years. Following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Jay re-enlisted in the Marines and was assigned as Military Police, Naval Station Bremerton, WA, Military Police Oakland, CA Naval Station and his first assignment to Camp Pendleton as a Machine Gun Trainer.
WW-II orders sent Jay to three years of jungle combat in Guadalcanal, New Britain and Battle of Peleliu, three of the Pacific’s most fierce island fights. Still in the Pacific Theater, Jay was in preparation for the invasion of Japan when the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended WW-II.
Post war assignment of Camp Pendleton lasted until then Sargent-Major Parker was ordered to support the Korean War where he was twice wounded and awarded two Purple Hears.
Post Korean War assignments included four years of “combat instruction” back at Camp Pendleton and recruiting duty in Little Rock, AR.
Sargent-Major Joseph ‘Jay’ Parker retired from active duty January 26, 1951. He served three years of reserve duty with Secretary Navy’s Fleet Marine Force committee requiring travel to Washington DC from Little Rock, AR and Nebraska.
in 1977, Jay moved “home” to Vista to stay! He served with the San Diego Sheriff Volunteers for sixteen years. During that volunteer work, he met, worked with and married Anne Pion nine years ago. Jay and Anne completed their civic service within a year supporting Vista City Code enforcement.
Jay and Anne Parker now enjoy retirement in their Vista home overlooking Vista High School with Camp Pendleton in the distance.
Sargent-Major Jay Parker’s Awards
Purple Heart with 1 gold
Presidential Unit Citation Medal with 3 stars
Naval Unit Commendation Medal
Good Conduct Medal with 7 stars
American Defense Medal
American Campaign Medal
Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with 3 stars
World War II Victory Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Korean Service Medal
United Nations Service Medal
Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation
Republic of Korea War Service Medal
Korea Defense Service Medal