MONROE — Lt. Col. Samuel (Sam) Iredell Parker is being honored on Veterans Day (Nov. 11) for his service in the United States Army during World War I. A monument will be dedicated as a tribute to Parker. The dedication will take place on Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. at the Oakwood Cemetery off Church Street in downtown Concord.
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Parker was born and raised in Monroe, NC, and lived in Cabarrus County as an adult.
Parker’s father ran three conjoined businesses. They were a dry goods store, a meat market and a café, according to historian Jim Kelly.
When Parker was drafted in 1917, he was a student at UNC-Chapel Hill (who later received degree consideration since he served in the war) and had worked as a principal at the Stonewall Jackson Training School in Concord, according to Kelly.
In August of 1917, Parker became a commissioned officer with the 2nd Lieutenant, Infantry, U.S. Army. “Within a short span of time, Sam was crossing the Atlantic by troop ship bound for the war in France. Upon arrival he was initially assigned to the Fifth British Army. After a brief stint with the British, he received orders to the U.S. 28th Infantry, First Division, and a big step closer to combat,” Kelly wrote. “On May 28, 1918 the 28th Infantry regiment had closed the distance with the Germans with artillery support from both armies near the town of Cantigny where the battle was joined. Sam was in Company ‘K’ of the 28th Inf. This was to be the first American offensive of World War 1.”
Kelly wrote about the intense fighting Parker endured while overseas at the Battle of Soissons on July 18,1918: “Parker led his platoon through heavy fire to close the gap. It was during this transition that a group of French Colonial soldiers who had become separated from their unit, leaderless and disorganized, were convinced with rudimentary French to join his depleted force in pursuit of the German gunners. As they crested the hill they gathered for an assault. The Germans were surprised and unprepared for the storm of men and bullets. Within what seemed like seconds the allied force had captured 6 enemy machine guns and approximately 40 soldiers. Parker had dispatched several with his quick draw and his powerful .45 Colt. Parker had received a flesh wound to the leg during the attack. ...
“Stragglers and lightly wounded men were gathered into an ad hoc machine gun platoon utilizing captured German machine guns. The order came to attack but to do so they had to cross over the German defended French Nationale Route 2, just west of a small village named Ploisy. In the ensuing attack Sam’s senior officer was wounded with shrapnel and could not lead. Major Huebner transferred command to Parker with the words “take my maps and carry on.” As the soldiers began their attack a German high explosive shell struck near Parker; he was thrown into the air and as he landed he felt pain in his right foot. He took off his boot and bound his own wound, refusing evacuation despite the pain. Their advance across and beyond the road had been a failure. ... Orders were received to attack across the road toward the Ploisy Ravine. There was a 1,000 meter gap [3,281 feet] between his troops and the French to the north. Parker had only 120 riflemen and had to crawl because of his painful foot wound. The platoon was inspired by his gallantry and determination and this time the attack was successful. Parker chose not to leave his command until a composite command had been drawn up later that evening when other officers reached his position. ...”
Parker continued to fight in the fall at Argonne Forest, in Exermont and at a rock quarry.
For his service, Parker received the Distinguished Service Cross, two Purple Heart medals, Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Legion of Merit, WWI Victory Medal with five bars and the French Fourragère and Croix de Guerre w/Bronze Palm; therefore, he became the most highly decorated American soldier of World War I, according to Kelly.
“His country again called upon him during World War 2 and he was promoted to Major, assigned to the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia where he taught a course in Military Leadership and wrote his own text book on the subject. In March 1943 he was again promoted this time to Lt. Coronel,” Kelly wrote.
The Congressional Medal of Honor was presented to Parker on May 7, 1936 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.