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How I got my appointment to West Point
My father had been medically discharged from the navy in 1935 with tuberculosis and we moved to a little farm near Fort Bragg. There was no electricity, outhouse and, most of the time, the wells ran dry and we had to save that water for the livestock. However, my dad would take me to Fort Bragg, where the houses that I admired so much in those days still stand, and I so wanted to live there. I did however really want to be a medical doctor and was number 2 in my graduating class so I enrolled in the University of North Carolina in the fall of 1950. I took placement tests and was enrolled as a sophomore but, there was only one problem....no food. In order to work in the cafeteria, you had to be at least a junior and there was no other work in, then, tiny Chapel Hill. So, I would hitch-hike home on Friday, eat all weekend, hitch-hike back on Sunday and eat corn flakes until the next Friday.
That schedule was working out alright but, then, I got appendicitis, and missed two weeks of school because of the operation. My counselor, perhaps inaccurately, told me to give up any hope of entering medical school so, I began to look toward that second goal, the military. One day while walking through downtown Chapel Hill, I saw a sign in the post office window that indicated if you scored high enough on the exam they would give you, you could go to this place called West Point where you had three squares and around $50 per month. I took it and scored high enough to get the appointment. My dad then discovered a prep school called Bradens' at Cornwall-On-Hudson, NY and sent me there where there were three squares each day and the preparation so adequate that when I took the entrance exam at Fort Bragg and walked out after less than an hour an NCO cautioned me not to give up. I told him I had finished and he didn't believe me. And, the rest is history.
Al (A.B.) Parker B-2
7 AUG 2010
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Autobiography of Alton B. Parker, Jr.
USMA '55 Company B-2
(19 May 2011)
Al was born 31 May 1932 in Philadelphia, PA while his father, an enlisted sailor, was stationed in San Diego, CA. His father was stricken with tuberculosis and was medically discharged causing the entire family, his mom, Gertrude and older sister, Barbara, to move to a small farm near Fort Bragg, NC. Life there was austere and a younger sister was born.
In 1939 his father was employed as a postal clerk in Fairmont, NC and at the beginning of WWII they moved into the town. Al played baseball and in 1950 was co-captain of the state championship football team. He graduated in 1950 as class salutatorian and won a football scholarship to Wake Forest University. Since the scholarship did not include room and board, he chose to enter the University of North Carolina as a pre-med student. While there, he competed for an appointment to a military academy offered by Senator Frank P. Graham and won one to the USMA at West Point and entered there in summer of 1951.
At West Point, his main objective was graduation and a commission in the military, and, even though an athlete, he concentrated on academics. He did win the 2d Regimental intramural wrestling championship his first year. He graduated with his class on 3 June 1955 and was commissioned in the Infantry, On 30 July 1955, he married Irene Guderian, from New York City whom he had met at the Army/Duke game in 1953.
Al attended the basic officer's course at Fort Benning and was qualified as an airborne, ranger, pathfinder. He and his wife transferred from Fort Carson to Germany with the 8th Infantry Division and spent three years there before returning to Fort Benning as an instructor. He was always proud to say that he was chosen at one point to present a class to President Dwight D. Eisenhower. After Benning, he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division; spent two years in Vietnam separated by an assignment in ROTC at Eastern KY University; served in Headquarters, 5th Army; and ended his active service in 1976 as a Deputy Community Commander in Germany.
In retirement he taught school, performed duties as a military school superintendent, and was employed as chief engineer for Exide Corporation. He and his wife now live in Lexington, KY. One son, two daughters, and six grandchildren live elsewhere.