Young Woman Meets Tragic End — No, It’s Not Anna Nicole

By: Greg Mitchell

A young woman met a sudden and tragic end, it was reported on Thursday, leaving her family and people who knew her in great distress.

No, it’s not Anna Nicole Smith. Her name is Jennifer Parcell, and she died in Iraq. But you’d be lucky if you could find any mention of her, amidst the front page and wall-to-wall media coverage of the likely drug-related death of “starlet” Smith.

In fact, as of noon today, there were only seven press mentions, all in the area of her native Maryland, according to a Google search.

In contrast to, say, Anna Nicole Smith, Parcell seemed to have a serious side. Even in Iraq, she was managing to take a course at the University of Maryland, the Baltimore Sun relates, adding: “Helping others was routine for the Marine corporal. She sponsored an African child through a mission charity. And when Pakistan was devastated by an earthquake last year, she and others in her unit were dispatched to the scene. She earned the Humanitarian Service Medal for her efforts.”

In fact, the Sun, in a separate story noted: “With the death of reality TV star Anna Nicole Smith yesterday, a ferocious barrage of Marilyn Monroe-like images and scattershot speculation was instantly loosed across the on-air and online landscape of 24-hour news…The one constant: The story was consistently framed in a breathless tabloid manner.”

The cause of Parcell’s death has not yet been released. The Pentagon notice simply says that she died “supporting” combat operations in Anbar province, not actually in combat.

Will Bunch, reporter and blogger (at Attytood) for the Philadelphia Daily News, pointed out the imbalance in coverage earlier today, calling on the press to give us “a name and a face to go with that number, 3,115,” referring to the number of American deaths in Iraq.

It would be nice, he suggests, if just one cable news channel, instead of dwelling on Anna Nicole, would bring on a medical expert “to talk about the type of combat injuries that America’s fighting men and women are suffering in Iraq, and whether the troops have adequate protection.” Or maybe find a friend or colleague in the field who could tell us about Parcell’s life, “and our loss.”

Here is the Associated Press story carried in a few places today.

A 2004 graduate of Fallston High School who followed her older brother to the Marines was killed during fighting in Iraq, the Department of Defense said Thursday.

Cpl. Jennifer Parcell, 20, of Bel Air, Md. died Wednesday “while supporting combat operations in Al Anbar province,” a Department of Defense news release said.

“If you knew her, you loved her. She was a go-getter. She knew what she wanted in life and she was doing what she had to do to achieve that,” Parcell’s aunt Martha Benton of Aberdeen said.

Parcell joined the Marine Corps in January 2005. Benton said she’d wanted to enlist since attending her brother Joseph’s graduation at Parris Island. The 24-year-old enlisted in February 2003 and he is returning from his tour to be with family.

The brother and sister were stationed together in Iraq for about a month before their tours of duty separated them, Benton said.

Math was her forte at Fallston High School in 2004, Benton said. She said Parcell always enjoyed the water, including boating and scuba diving. She also liked yoga and music and spending time with family and friends.

Parcell was assigned to Combat Logistics Regiment 3, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Okinawa, Japan. She had earned six medals and Benton said Marine Corps officials told the family Parcell may be eligible for a Purple Heart.

“We’re just going to miss her very, very much,” Benton said. “She was always someone you could count on.”

The family was notified of her death Wednesday afternoon.

Also Thursday, the family of a 21-year-old Navy paramedic from the Eastern Shore said he was killed when a Marine helicopter crashed in Iraq Wednesday.

Manuel Ruiz, of Federalsburg, was two weeks into his second tour of duty when the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter he was riding in crashed, killing six other persons onboard.

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