ARLINGTON, Va. — USMC Ret. Sgt. Major Todd Parisi of St. Marys made it to his final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery Wednesday.
Approximately 200 family, friends and members of the military came together to mourn and to watch Parisi, 49, buried with full military honors in Section 55 of the sprawling Virginia cemetery, where the rolling green hills are covered with rows of white tombstones marking the graves of more than 400,000 people, including active duty service members, veterans and their families.
Members of the USMC band marched at the head of the funeral procession, which included a horse-drawn caisson from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment, or the Old Guard, that helped carry Parisi’s flag-draped casket. There were also the body bearers, a six-man Marine casket team, a four-man color guard, an escort platoon, a rifle-firing party, a bugler, and U.S. Navy Chaplain Lt. Commander Brian Arant, who would lead the service.
Parisi’s family walked at the head of the column of mourners who came behind the casket.
Military funeral honors are usually reserved for officers, according to Director of Public Affairs Barbara M. Lewandrowski. But because Parisi was a retired Sgt. Major, an E-9, the highest enlisted man in the Marine Corps, he was entitled to full military honors.
“It’s very unusual that we have that here, it just doesn’t happen very often. It’s pretty grand,” Lewandrowski said.
Following the 20-minute funeral service, the members of the firing party fired three volleys, and a bugler played “Taps.” Other music played during the service included “Onward Christian Soldiers” and the Marine Corps Hymn.
The flag draped on Parisi’s casket was then beautifully folded and presented to Parisi’s son, U.S. Army Private First Class Dylan Parisi, by USMC Sgt. Major Matthew Hackett.
“We conduct 30 funerals a day at Arlington each day Monday through Friday, plus six to eight each Saturday,” Lewandrowski said.
How many attend each funeral service varies, she said.
“I’ve seen a thousand people at a funeral. I’ve seen nobody at a funeral,” Lewandrowski, who has worked at the cemetery for more than 20 years, said.
She noted that Section 55 is also the area where Vietnam-war era Medal of Honor recipient retired Marine Col. Wesley Fox is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Parisi, who was also a highly esteemed motivational speaker, died on March 29 at his home after a battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A memorial service was held April 5 in the Sacred Heart Parish Center gymnasium, where hundreds gathered to pay their final respects.
He was also 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.
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. He remained there until September 1991.
During his assignment with 1st Battalion 7th Marines, 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, 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.