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Community teams up to put a roof on WWII veteran's home

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Posted at 7:15 PM, Nov 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-11 14:08:11-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Jesse Parnell came close but never saw combat during the three years he served in World War II.

"I sat in this replacement depot and watched other soldiers come and sleep in the bunks next to me," Parnell said. "Next day they was gone. Maybe within a week, they were dead."

He was in Europe in May 1945 when Germany was defeated. He was near Japan in August 1945 when American forces dropped the two atomic bombs that would ultimately bring an end to the fighting.

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Jesse Parnell

"We was on the Pacific side of the canal for four days when the bomb dropped," Parnell said. "Sat on my fanny for three more months, and finally got to come home."

He served honorably and settled down in Indianapolis after the war.

Community members recently thanked the 95-year-old Army veteran for his service by installing a new roof and gutters on the northeast-side home where Parnell has lived since 1962. Parnell takes pride in the fact that he's the home's original owner.

"I picked this lot out, had this house built," Parnell said. "There were no road out here."

Two non-profit groups, He Cares Inc. and Redirection of Hope, organized the project. Work crews were provided by USA Roofing Systems and Exteriors LLC. ABC Supply and Lowes donated materials.

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USA Roofing Systems and Exteriors crews replaces Jesse Parnell's roof.

"It brings tears to my eyes. It does," said Robert Ray, a construction crew member who worked on Parnell's home. "I'm blessed to be able to do this for him. This is why we do things for men like him, men and women. They served our country. They deserve it."

Parnell is a good friend to the people in his neighborhood, said Lenerd Mckinney, president of He Cares Inc.

"It is a joy to help Jesse do anything," Mckinney said. "He's the guy that when I meet kids in the neighborhood who have motorbikes and stuff that don't work, I can bring it over here and he'll fix it free of charge."

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USA Roofing Systems and Exteriors crews replaces Jesse Parnell's roof.

Parnell repairs lawn mowers as a side business. He's become an expert at fixing anything with a small engine.

Crews replaced the roof and gutters last week. On Wednesday, Ray and another worker built a short wall on the side of Parnell's garage.

Parnell hopes the new wall blocks the wind enough to keep snow from filling the food bowls he leaves out for the neighborhood cats.

As for the kindness of all the people who have helped him, Parnell was speechless.

"I'm so grateful," Parnell said. "I can't put it in words."

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Jesse Parnell's hat.

Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at or on Twitter: @vicryc.