Fallen soldiers honored
The youngsters hardly noticed a group of gray-haired men and women gathered near the gazebo for the annual Memorial Day celebration.
As Shirley Snyder began the celebration with the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of “The Star Spangled Banner,” parents slowly started leading their children from the playground to the gazebo to listen to the speakers and patriotic songs.
“All weekend long, I’ve watched the news, and I have not heard one thing about Memorial Day,” said Ron Oberle, a veteran of the U.S. Navy. “I’ve heard a lot of things about three-day weekends and sales at car lots. But no one has mentioned why we are having a three-day weekend right now. And that is the sacrifice of 1.7 million of men and women who paid the ultimate price for their country and were killed during wartime.”
Snyder led the crowd during a sing-along that featured “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America.”
“As you know, Memorial Day is set aside for all of us to pause and reflect on those servicemen and women who made the supreme sacrifice of their lives, who were killed in defense of our freedom and way of life,” said Col. Bill Parker, a retired member of the U.S. Marines.
Parker asked everyone in the crowd to be sure to visit the monument at the front of the park on Main Street that lists the names of all Blowing Rock servicemen who died at war.
“To me, this Memorial Park is a place of inspiration,” Parker said. “This monument stands as a testament to the conviction of our predecessors, who answered the call of duty and did not return.
The fact that we are gathered here at this moment signifies that we are honoring that conviction. Behind each of these names is a person, a veteran who was once young and vibrant, who was once fit and healthy and who served our country in time of war. Today, I want to reflect on one of the heroes whose name is on the memorial plaque.
“The man is Lt. Col. David E. Parsons, United States Army, who was killed in action on the 6th of February 1969 in Vietnam. Lt. Col. Parsons was a member of a crew flying a Huey helicopter trying to re-supply some trapped and surrounded Marines on a mountaintop firebase in northern South Vietnam. The weather was very bad and the helicopter crew lost contact with their base. It was assumed that the helicopter crashed or was shot down and lost in the jungle.
“The crew, including Don Parsons, was listed as missing in action.
“Don Parsons was a career military man, who had already received the Bronze Star for valor while fighting during the Korean War. He was stationed in Texas when he received his orders to Vietnam. He moved his family to Blowing Rock and then departed to serve his country, leaving behind his wife and two daughters.
“In January 1969, he spent a week in Hawaii with his wife, Patricia, on rest and recreation leave. His first mission upon returning to Vietnam turned out to be his last. When his name was placed on this memorial plaque, he was still listed as MIA.
“In 1992, the government established the Joint Task Force Accounting Unit to find and repatriate remains from Southeast Asia. In 1995, the wreckage of an Army Huey helicopter was found about a mile from where the last radio contact was made with Parsons’ helicopter crew in 1969.
“In late 2000, remains from the wreckage were positively identified as those of Don Parsons by the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory in Rockville, Md. Don’s wife never received this news because she had died in December of 1999.
“Lt. Col. Don Parsons’ remains were buried with full military honors in the Arlington National Cemetery on June 7, 2002. The ashes of his beloved wife, Patricia, were also placed in his casket.
“The man from Blowing Rock finally rested again on American soil 33 years after he left to serve his country in the Vietnam War.
“Please keep the memories of the awesome sacrifices of these departed in your thoughts and prayers this and every Memorial Day,” Parker said.
After the speeches and songs, the 14 veterans present gathered to have their photo taken in front of the memorial plaque.