Monday, May 7, 2012

Military Monday: Col. Gordon Merritt Parks, 1916-2004

Gordon Merritt Parks, husband of Patricia Pape Hunter, in July 1947, in or near Des Moines, Iowa

With May being National Military Appreciation Month, I thought I'd write about a relative with a distinguished military career, my dad's first cousin Pat Pape Hunter's husband, Colonel Gordon Merritt Parks.

Gordon Merritt Parks was born July 28, 1916, in Davidson, Saskatchewan, Canada, the son of Lee W. and Hazel Merritt Parks. He was raised and educated in Iowa. After graduating from high school in 1934, he enlisted in the Army's 113th Cavalry as a radio operator, the first for this "all horse" regiment. During World War II, he served in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany, in combat for 309 days, and receiving two battlefield commissions to second lieutenant and first lieutenant.

After a brief civilian career on the engineering staff of radio station "WHO" in Des Moines, Iowa, and being active in the post-war National Guard, he returned to active duty and was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division on occupation duty in Japan. He received his third battlefield commission to captain during the Korean War.  Subsequent duty stations included the Southeastern Signal School in Camp Gordon, Georgia; the Army Pictorial Center in New York City; the Signal Corps Proving Ground at Fort Huachuca, Arizona; and the White House Army Signal Agency in Washington, D.C.   He retired from active duty in 1963 with the rank of lieutenant colonel.  He was later promoted to colonel and retired from the Iowa National Guard.

Appointed to the Secret Service in 1962 as its first communications officer, he modernized and expanded communications facilities to meet the agency's growing mission. Among his many duties with the White House Communications Agency, he traveled overseas extensively on presidential (and First Lady) trips, arranged communications services and made sure the president was never out of contact with the United States. His service in the Washington area, military and civilian, spanned the Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford administrations, with final retirement in December, 1976.

After retirement, he served as volunteer editor of The Redhorser Newletter, a quarterly publication for veterans of the 113th Cavalry.  His military awards included the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Army Commendation Ribbon with Medal Pendant, the Belgian Fourragere, and the Presidential Service Badge. He died on October 26, 2004, at age 88, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.  He had six daughters, one stepdaughter, and one stepson.

[Sources:  November 3, 2004, obituary in The Washington Post with November 4 correction, and an entry on page 133 in We Remember: U.S.Cavalry Association by Edward L Daily.]

© Amanda Pape - 2012 - click here to e-mail me.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful story! Such service to our country. Thanks for sharing it Amanda. We can never say thank you enough to the men and women who serve!!!