ST. MARYS — Hundreds gathered Thursday to acknowledge the death of a community leader and veteran.

During Todd Parisi’s funeral ceremony, Mike Wolfel, father of Adam Wolfel, who in December of 2015, also took his own life due to post-traumatic stress syndrome, acknowledged all those present.

Wolfel said that, according to 2014 statistics, which are the most current, there are slightly more than 20 suicides by veterans every day.

“Of the top five reasons for deaths in the military, suicides are at 28.1 percent,” said Wolfel, adding that, “Of the suicides, 95 percent are male, and 95 percent are not enlisted or commissioned officers...45 percent are under the age of 25.”

As he did at his own son’s funeral, Wolfel implored those servicemen and servicewomen present Thursday to call on one another for assistance and to reach out to the resources provided by veterans’ organizations available to help them.

Sgt. Maj. Todd M. Parisi enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in October of 1985 and entered recruit training in September 1986 at 2D Battalion, Company F, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina.

Upon graduation as a Private First Class, he attended the Infantry Training School at Camp Geiger, North Carolina and graduated as the Bravo Company Honor man and was assigned the MOS of 0311 and promoted to Lance Corporal. After completing training as an infantryman, he was assigned to Marine Barracks Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines for Security Force duty where he served from March 1987 until September 1988.

He then transferred to 1st Battalion 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division, where he served as a Scout/Scout-Sniper and remained there until September 1991.

During his assignment with 1st Battalion 7th Marines, Sergeant Major Parisi served as a Scout-Sniper team leader during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm with Task Force Ripper. He was selected the 1995 Rookie of the Year, Recruiter of the Year in 1996, and was the Centurion Award recipient in 1997. He also served in support of Iraqi Freedom. In 2011, he assumed duties as the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, deploying forward as the senior enlisted advisor for the theater response force in support of real world contingencies.

Parisi’s personal awards include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (with gold star in lieu of second award, Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal (with three gold stars in lieu of fourth award), Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal (with gold star in lieu of second award), the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, the Combat Action Ribbon and he was also the recipient of the Major General Clayton B. Vogel Award for leadership excellence in the 2nd Marine Division.

He was a highly esteemed motivational speaker, who enjoyed fishing and was the co-founder of the local youth group, The Spartans.

That group would come to grow, within a short time, beyond 300 members, spreading good deeds throughout the area.

Bailey Pretak, of Johnsonburg, a woman with lamellar ichthyosis, a rare genetic condition that causes the skin to dry out, crack, and shed excessively, had become a motivational speaker due to Todd.

She said, “The biggest thing is that he was one of the first people to really believe that I could pursue being a motivational speaker. He believed in me and my story. And any time that I spent with him was so encouraging because we both had the same desire to inspire others and to help lift them up. We inspired each other. That is sometimes a rare thing to find.”

Additionally, Tara Frank, the mother of Chloe, who is currently recovering from childhood cancer, said of Parisi, who has been the family’s champion throughout the diagnosis, “Our appreciation for Todd as a family is truly ineffable. He inspired us with not only his love of our country, but his time of service was incredible. Serving is one thing, we cannot thank him enough for putting his life at stake to protect the freedoms we hold so dearly. Some people spend a lifetime wondering if they have made a difference in the world... There is no question that he has made a difference.”

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