Thumbs Up to Team Parks: Girls honor Marine with terminal illness

Published 9:55 am Thursday, March 17, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Mike Barnhardt

Enterprise Record

Thumbs up.

United States Marine Master Sgt. Lannie Philmore “Phil” Parks gave a group of Davie County girls the positive sign on a reecent Saturday morning.

It’s the same sign he gave when asked if he would sign up to serve his country in the Marines again – even though his exposure to chemicals during his service time caused him to develop a rare and deadly form of Parkinson’s Disease, MSA.

Thumbs up.

“He is a true Marine and a dedicated husband and father,” said his sister-in-law, Teresa Cookson of Davie County.

Cookson was coaching a girls youth basketball team in the Davie Recreation & Parks league. “I wanted them to play not only for themselves, but to acknowledge someone in our military.”

She told them about her 49-year-old brother-in-law, and Team Parks was born.

“Without any hesitation, they all wanted our team name to be Team Parks. We wanted to honor he and his family for their sacrifices.”

Parks enlisted in the Marine Corps in September of 1990. Following recruit training, he attended the Marine Combat Training and Marine Corps Engineer School at Camp Lejeune, and later was assigned to the 1371 MOS and promoted to lance corporal.

He was assigned to the Marine Corps Combat Development Center in 1991, serving as a basic engineer and carpenter for Guadalcanal Maintenance, and was promoted to corporal.

Next came the 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion, 3D Marine Division, Okinawa, Japan. He served as first squad leader for 1st Platoon Charlie Company. He also deployed to Korea for Freedom Banner 94 and completed Jungle Warfare Training and graduated from Journeyman’s Engineer School.

He was then transferred to Marine Wing Support Squadron 274, 2nd Marine Air Wing, Cherry Point. A year later he was assigned to the Nuclear Biological Chemical Defense (MOS) and promoted to sergeant.

Parks deployed to  Guyana, South America and St. Lucia in support of Combined Joint Task Force Falcon and New Horizons 98 and was promoted to staff sergeant.

In 2000, Parks was assigned to the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force. He served as the NBC Reconnaissance Section Leader, Sector Team Leader and Hot Zone Controller. He supported two Presidential addresses, a Presidential inauguration and multiple Anthrax biological agent sampling operations in support of Operation Noble Eagle and promoted to gunnery sergeant.

In 2009, he deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2010, he was promoted to master sergeant and served the remainder of his deployment as operations chief for MAGTF.

In 2012, he transferred to MARSOC (Marine Forces Special Operations Command) and assigned as the CBRND Chief, the Destructive Weather Officer. In 2013, he deployed to Afghanistan and was assigned to the Commander’s Priorities Integration Team.

Among his awards: Air Force Achievement Medal, Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Navy Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal.

It took a few weeks, but Cookson arranged for a ceremony at the beginning of Team Parks’ game recently, complete with military pomp, tears and pride. Parks’ wife, Tracie, was there, she is accountant for the Marines at Camp Lejeune. His daughter, Regan, was also there. She attends early college and is a Classic Soccer player. They are his main caretakers.

They were frequent visitors to Davie County until the disease made it difficult to travel; and he needs to stay closer to his doctors.

“His health is declining, however, every day he fights,” Cookson said.

She tries to instill that same ethic in her young players, who had been asking about the inspiration for “Team Parks” all season. “I am married to a retired Marine, so my work ethic during games and practices is hard, but the girls know what they are representing and never complain.

“We want to show our gratitude and thank Master Sgt. Parks for his loyalty and service to our country. He is an inspiration and a true hero.”

Thumbs up.