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Utah soldier's life remembered
Bishop John Wester spent his first week in Salt Lake City getting to know a young Catholic who, like him, had moved to Utah from California.
"Of all the people I've met so far in Utah," said Wester, who was installed last week as Utah's ninth Catholic bishop, "I knew Brandon the most, even though I never met him."
And although now, after a week of conversation with Brandon Parr's family, Wester knows much about the young soldier, the bishop will never have the opportunity to meet him in person.
Parr was killed with two other soldiers March 3 in Baghdad, Iraq, when the vehicle in which they were riding was struck by an improvised explosive device. On Monday, the fourth anniversary of the war that claimed his life, the West Valley City resident was laid to rest at Mount Calvary Catholic Cemetery after services at the Cathedral of the Madeleine over which Wester presided.
"In a very real way we can discern God's presence in Brandon's life - in the example he gave us," Wester told a small gathering of mourners, including the 25-year-old soldier's wife and son. "There was a lot of joy in Brandon's life."
Parr was a member of a military police company whose duties included training Iraqi police to take control of a central Baghdad neighborhood.
In statements shared from memorial services for Parr in Iraq and Germany, where he was stationed before deploying, fellow service members remembered the Army sergeant as good-natured, funny and caring.
Parr was born in California's Central Valley but grew up in San Luis Obispo, about midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco on the state's Pacific Coast Highway.
He met his wife at a Salt Lake City dance club not long after moving to Utah with his mother and stepfather. After a six-month courtship, the couple married in 2001 and had a son, Nicholas.
Parr joined the Army in 2003. His first tour in Iraq came the following year.