On July 18, 1918, Union County World War I solider Samuel I. Parker advanced directly into machine gun fire, killing the gunner with his pistol. The incident took place near Soissons in northern France and earned Parker one of only two Medals of Honor awarded to North Carolinians for World War I service.
Parker was a descendant of early Supreme Court Justice James Iredell and Governor Abner Nash and left UNC for military service just prior to graduation in 1917. Part of the First Infantry Division of the American Expeditionary Force, he served on the front lines in France. Samuel J. Ervin, one of his classmates at UNC and later U.S. senator, served in the same unit.
After the war, Parker worked in textile mills. President Franklin D. Roosevelt presented the Medal of Honor to him in 1936 in a White House ceremony attended by Douglas MacArthur. During World War II, Parker trained troops at Fort Benning, Ga.
The Medal of Honor is the military’s highest honor and is awarded for gallantry above and beyond the call of duty. Since its creation during the Civil War, less than 3,500 Americans, and fewer than 40 North Carolinians, have received it.
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