Our son was a gift from God: It was just time for him to go home

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

CHINO VALLEY, Ariz. -- 19 Granite Mountain Hot Shots died on Yarnell Hill June 30th 2013. This past year has been one of many heartbreaking firsts for families left behind.

Each family has dealt with the pain and grief in its own way. Some wanted to share stories and memories. Others have chosen to remain more private.

When we arrived at the home of Danny and Michelle Parker in Chino Valley, it was clear to see these are private, humble people who would much rather be out of the spotlight. But they also had a desire to talk about their son, Wade. One of the youngest Hot Shots who died that day when the winds changed and the fire showed no mercy.

Danny Parker was a Chino Valley Firefighter until he retired last December.

"This kind of event can destroy people, but it's a choice," Parker told me as we sat in the living room of the family home he built by hand, "We have to get out of bed every morning and put our feet on the ground. And we have to continue our lives."

I asked the Parkers what they wanted people to know about their son.  "Wade was a very loving person, and he was a very compassionate person," Danny said.

His wife, Michelle, sitting by her husband's side, went on to say, "We are just really proud of him and who he became as a man. I miss his big hugs and his big smiles. He would come up behind me and bear hug and he didn't care who was around. He just had a love for life."

Wade Parker's love for life was evident in his family home.  Pictures show Wade growing up outdoors hunting and fishing with his dad.  He also loved sports -- especially baseball.

"Wade wanted to be a fireman from the time he was a little kid ... like a lot of little kids," Danny Parker told us. Michelle added with a slight smile, "Well, he had two things he wanted to do. Baseball, baseball, baseball."

"He had a game plan," Danny went on, "He wanted to get hired with the Granite Mountain Hot Shots. He wanted to be a Hot Shot."

It was just after 4:30 on June 30th that Hot Shot crew had to deploy their emergency shelters. When Danny Parker got the call, he knew, tragically, what that meant.  The chances of survival were slim.  His long time friend, a firefighter with the Prescott Fire Department called him to share the devastating news. News that would shatter this -- and many other families.  He asked Danny if he wanted to join them as they went up to Yarnell Hill -- to get the Granite Mountain Hot Shots and bring them home.

I asked why it was important to go to Yarnell Hill, stay the night with the 19 Hot Shots who could not escape that fire and bring them down the next day.

With tears streaming down his face, Parker said, "I'm part of the reason he wanted to be a firefighter. It was important to go get my son. He wasn't just my son, he was my buddy, too. I know that some people might not understand that I wanted to go down there to get my son but I felt like it was my responsibility as a father."

A year later, I asked the Parkers if they question why.

Michelle Parker paused with pain in her eyes. But her husband answered right away. "No, never a question," he said, "we believe each one of our children were a gift from God, so Wade was actually on loan to us. It was just time for him to go home."