Local Veteran Chosen To Take Rotary Honor Flight to Washington D.C.

Sharon Schuler Kreps/CullmanSense

HANCEVILLE – World War II Veteran and Victorian Manor resident Homer Parker recently received exciting news. He was chosen to participate in the Tuscaloosa Rotary Honor Flight on May 6.  He and many other World War II and Korean War veterans flew to Washington D.C. to visit the National World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery. Mr. Parker has been on the waiting list for the flight since November 2013. 

“I was a farmer, raised on a farm,” Mr. Parker explained. “I left home and went with Uncle Sam. I was in pretty good shape from working on the farm. A lot of those boys wasn’t. There was a lot of marching, but that didn’t bother me at all because I was used to following a mule in the fields,” he chuckled. 

After completing Boot Camp in Fort Blanding, Fla., Mr. Parker went to Fort Bragg in N.C. for more training. 

“We took our training in Camp Blanding, Florida and it was hot,” he reminisced.

“Then they picked us up and sent us to North Carolina, where there was snow on the ground! Our bodies weren’t used to that so it took us a while to get going.”

After spending some time in North Carolina, Mr. Parker was sent to Sherbet, France and then to Le Harve, also in France, and spent most of his time as part of the U.S. Army infantry as a marksman. 

“A lot of boys were marksmen, some of them couldn’t shoot,” he said with a grin. “But us country boys had always hunted, you know, we squirrel hunted and rabbit hunted so it wasn’t a problem for us to be a marksman. Some of the Yankees, I like to call them, from New York and New Jersey, they had a hard time qualifying because they had never gone out squirrel hunting.” 

Mr. Parker’s troop was one of the five troops that liberated the people from the Nazi concentration camp in Krakow.

“I couldn’t believe, wouldn’t have believed if I hadn’t have been there and seen for myself that a human being could treat another human being in that way,” he said, shaking his head and thinking of the poor souls he helped rescue.  

Mr. Parker was honorably discharged from the Army with a T5 rank. The T is for technical and the 5 is for Corporal. He had earned the Bronze Star and the Combat Infantry Badge.    

The first thing Mr. Parker did once he returned home was head to Hartselle where his uncle was the principal at the school. He was given a job overseeing the school buses, which is where he met and later married his sweetheart Virginia. 

“I was out there checking some of the buses and gassing them up when I saw her walk across the campus,” he smiled at Virginia who sat across from him.

“I asked one of the bus drivers ‘Is that girl married?’ When the driver told me no, I found out she was the P.E. teacher. I remember telling the driver, ‘Well, I’m going to date her before the year is over’ but I turned out marrying her before the year was over!” That was 65 years ago and they are still crazy about each other.

Mr. and Mrs. Parker are extremely excited about the Honor Flight. Mr. Parker has never been to the memorials and looks forward to seeing them in person. The one thing he hopes to find is what ever happened to his dear friend Captain Benjamin Blackmon. 

“Last time I saw him he was on a stretcher, he had gotten wounded,” he said sadly.

“We hardly ever did any night fighting, but we did that night. He got wounded and here came the guys that took him off in a stretcher. According to my book they lost him, they don’t know if he made it or not, he hasn’t been located.” 

The Tuscaloosa Rotary Honor Flight (TRHF) recognizes American veterans for their sacrifices and achievements by flying them to Washington, DC to see THEIR memorial free of charge.

Top priority is given to WW II, Korean, and terminally ill veterans from all wars. In the future, TRHF will be expanded to include Vietnam veterans. 

In order for TRHF to achieve this goal, guardians fly with the veterans on every flight providing assistance and helping veterans have a safe, memorable and rewarding experience.

For more information about this program, go to their website at RotaryTuscaloosa.com/about-us/honor-flight.