DON GROVES/Albany Ledger
James Parman looks a photo and his World War II ribbons on a display created by his son Phillip at his home Sept. 25. Phillip took his father to Washington, D.C., on an Honor Flight Sept. 11.
By Don Groves
The Albany Ledger
Ninety-two-year-old James Parman of Albany said he had never really been interested in taking an Honor Flight and visiting Washington, D.C., but on Sept. 11 he and his son Phillip of Springfield board a flight in Kansas City and head toward the U.S. capital.
“I was never too impressed with going but he signed me up to go,” Parman said. “I’m glad I went.”
The Honor Flight Network began in 2005 as a way to honor veterans by flying them to Washington, D.C., to visit memorial dedicated to their service and sacrifices. Parman said he and his son visited Arlington National Cemetery, the National World War II Monument and other monuments there.
“Everything is so big,” he said.
Parman was one of 59 veterans who took the trip. He said each veteran was accompanied by a guardian and given jackets as a way to identify the tour buses on which the veterans rode.
“Every veteran had a jacket,” he said. “If that jacket wasn’t the right color you didn’t get on the bus.”
While earlier Honor Flights included just World War II veterans, Parman said his flight was the first to include Korean War veterans. The Honor Flight Network’s plan is to add Korean War and Vietnam veterans to its flights.
While Parman said the memorials and other sites in Washington were impressive the best part of the trip was meeting a familiar face in D.C. Parman worked with Jim Mahoney for a while and through Mahoney met his daughter Christina, who now works on Capitol Hill.
“Christina Mahoney came down to meet me in Washington, D.C.,” Parman said. “She was one of the highlights of the trip. I always thought a lot about Christina.”
Parman served with the Army Medical Corps in the Philippines where he helped protect doctors and nurses.
“We followed the line,” he said. “The corpsmen would bring the wounded to the field hospital.”
At the moveable station hospital, he said the soldiers were treated and either returned to the field or transferred to a different hospital for further treatment. He said the hospitals were similar to the one depicted on the television show MASH.
Parman served at New Guinea, Luzon, Palawan and, at the end of the war, Corregidor Island where the Japanese had sunk ships to block the island.
“It’s really just a big rock,” he said.
Parman joined the service in 1942, returning home in 1946 and marrying his wife Maxine in 1947, but said he had also been a member of the 129th Field Artillery in Albany when it was mobilized in 1940.
“That was when I was 20,” he said. “They put me out because of my eyes but then I was drafted.”
With the need for troops for the war, the Army looked for ways to use Parman despite his poor eyesight. He said he was sent to Fort Leavenworth; Fort Louis, Wash.; Clinton, Iowa; Fort Benjamin Harris, Ind.; Fort Crowder, Mo.; Camp Murray, Wash; Camp Stoneman, Calif.; and finally overseas.
“I’d taken a little training at each,” he said.
Parman and other troops were transported aboard the S.S. Lurline, on old luxury liner that had been converted to a troop ship.
“I’d never seen water like that before,” he said. “Only Muddy Creek.”
Parman said he had made up his mind beforehand he wasn’t going to become seasick aboard the ship and he didn’t. He found himself and few other troops as part of the ship’s cleanup crew, helping to maintain the ship and receiving a third meal at midnight after their work was done while other soldiers aboard received only two meals a day.
Parman said he caught a train at the Albany depot in 1942, arriving late as it was leaving the station.
“I ran down and jumped on the caboose,” he said.
Parman’s mother had died when he was young and had spent his life on the farm helping his father. Leaving Gentry County was an entirely new experience, he said.
“I was sure homesick the next day,” he said.
Parman said he entered the service at the same time two other young men from Gentry County, Carlton Carter and Butch McConkey, entered. A thousand miles away from home, Parman said he discovered just how small the world is when left Luzon to relieve troops at Palawan.
“A guy asked me where I was from and I said Missouri. He said, ‘Come here, I got someone I want you to meet,’” Parman said. “It was Butch McConkey.”