Honoring, remembering those who served | NevadaAppeal.com

Honoring, remembering those who served

Andrew Pridgen
Appeal Staff Writer

Perhaps more than anyone in attendance at the Silver Oak Golf Course on Saturday – an event to honor Nevadans who’ve served, and fallen – Carson resident Roy Parks, 81, had reason to be there.

“I served in the Pacific theater in World War II – from New Guinea to Tokyo Bay, I like to say.”

Parks estimates he’s one of only a handful of World War II vets able to attend, and while he was loathe to recall war stories, even for those who asked after noticing his Navy bomber jacket and wry smile, he did express appreciation, empathy and some concern for those who fight today.

“I’m sure if I were young I’d have signed up by now,” he said. “I support what those men and women are doing. I think anyone who goes over there and fights deserves some kind of recognition – some kind of medal.

“But I don’t think we’re there for the right reasons. Sept. 11 took so many and changed so many families and lives. Now, we’ve about doubled that number of folks lost. For me, sometimes I gotta say – it just doesn’t add up.”

Parks said watching Ken Burns’ new documentary “The War” has opened up the vault holding some of his World War II memories.

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When he saw the episode on the Pacific, he could “look at the pictures and say – ‘I was there, I was there too.'”

But it was the loss of his best friend in Okinawa that he can still recall with the greatest clarity.

“There wasn’t much time for mourning,” he said. “I was one of two pallbearers. We had his body in a stretcher – over our heads – and let him go. And let me tell you, it was a year from when his body went over the side, until it hit the water.

“But that’s what we had to do then. Just like people do what they have to do now. I’ll tell you what – I’ll never forget him. He was from New York, and I want to see if I can find a brother, a sister, some relative back there on the computer. I want to tell them someone remembers him.”

Garth Richards, part owner of Silver Oaks, said the event – which featured live music, food and spirits in effort to raise more than $100,000 for the Nevada Patriot Fund – happened as if by accident.

“Well, we’ve been having a couple days here and there where Iraq vets can come and play for free,” Richards said. “And suddenly, we thought, ‘hey, we can do something bigger,’ and that’s what you see here. It’s a great way to get people out and something everyone can rally behind.”

The Nevada Patriot Fund was established after Sept. 11 to help provide for Nevada families who lose loved ones in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Margaret Colescott of Minden, one of the evening’s volunteer coordinators, said once she heard of the event and where the proceeds would go, she was sold.

“The bast thing about this is it’s not for Democrats or Republicans or independents – it’s apolitical,” she said. “No matter what people’s beliefs, they know it’s right to support our men and women overseas. It’s something everyone can support.”

Several booths manned by the likes of Carson High’s JROTC and folks like Carson resident Pat Lindsay, who volunteers for the local chapter of http://www.soldiersangels.com, a letter-writing drive to those serving abroad.

Lindsay estimates she’s written more than 2,000 soldiers herself, though more than 100,000 volunteered “angels” nationwide are implored to only write a letter a week and send a package a month.

“Let me tell you – it’s addicting,” she said. “Once you get a response and know how appreciative they are, it keeps you going.”

As the dusk settled over a bandstand with a five-piece belting out cover tunes, veteran Parks surveyed the crowd of passersby, each nodding or giving a half-salute of appreciation in his direction.

“It’s important that people don’t forget,” he said.

• Contact reporter Andrew Pridgen at apridgen@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.