Navy veteran remembers shipmates lost during Vietnam

As one Navy veteran explained, you don’t have to be on a battlefield to face risk... Or involuntarily lose your life.
Published: May. 30, 2023 at 2:27 PM CDT
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CASPER, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - For those of us who have never served in the military, we may be inclined to think the most dangerous roles are those that involve direct combat. But as one navy veteran explained, you don’t have to be on a battlefield to face risk... Or involuntarily lose your life.

Richard Parks served in the navy during the Vietnam War. He was part of the crew that was in charge of the flight deck on the USS Coral Sea. And the ship he was on wasn’t too far off the coast of Vietnam. “Sailing out to launch, you always got to launch into the wind. So depending on which way the wind would go... Never more than 40 miles, never closer than 20. Sometimes you could actually see the outlying islands... The top of the outlying islands. Lot of sand pans.”

Parks says those aboard the ship played a very important role, providing support for the troops on the ground. “Go in and give our boys on the ground, who were being pinned down, or being... You know... Accosted by the enemy... They’d go in and give them air support. Drop napalm or bombs, strafing runs, or whatever it took to get our boys back out.”

For Parks and others on the flight deck, danger was always lurking. “I got tumbled one time... Probably... I don’t know... 50 Yards... 60 Yards down the deck. Walked behind an F-4 just as they goosed it to move forward. And it, I mean, picks you up and... Down the deck you go, so...”

And there were those that, unfortunately, paid the ultimate price. “When you see a person... Your size... My size... Get sucked into and intake of an aircraft... It’s not pretty. We were on the flight deck one night about two in the morning. I don’t know the young man’s name. All I know is... He walked out of a door... It was dark. And he walked out the door, made a left turn and went right into a prop. And yeah... It’s not nice. It’s not a very pretty picture afterwards.”

Some 50 years later, Parks is able to look back on his time in the military philosophically. “For me, you know, it’s what we signed up to do. I guess if it was my time... I’d say that I’d pray it would be quick. But no... We had four years up there, and I enjoyed every minute of it, so...”