ELKHORN, Neb. — Former North Iowan Dick Parcher served in Vietnam for only a little over two months, but 47 years later he bears the scars and the memories of one fateful day.
June 10, 1969 — the day he was shot.
Parcher, 72, now of Elkhorn, Nebraska, grew up in Rockford and graduated from Rockford High School in 1962. He studied forestry at Iowa State University where he was in the ROTC program. After graduating he went into the Army.
Parcher went to Vietnam on March 23, 1969, as a helicopter pilot, flying what he calls “ash and trash” missions — “supplying the grunts on the ground with whatever they needed — food, ammunition, transports, that sort of thing.”
June 10 started out as a normal day with not much happening. After lunch, he was sent on a mission as co-pilot on another routine “ash and trash” mission into a remote area.
As the helicopter approached, he and the pilot both noticed their destination had an extremely small landing zone.
“We tried to get into it but started taking the tops of trees off with our blades,” said Parcher. “We pulled back and tried to set down again. We were about 10 feet from the ground when a sniper fired off one shot and hit me in the arm,” he said.
“The bullet went all the way through my arm. We got out of there. I was going into shock,” said Parcher, who was 25 at the time and had a wife and child back home.
They flew to a first aid station for immediate help. Then Parcher was flown to Da Nang for further treatment and then home.
The bullet damaged the nerve in his left hand and resulted in Parcher having permanent limited use of his left thumb.
But, he said, he is ambidextrous, and that helps him compensate for his injury.
“When I was a kid, I was predominantly left-handed and my dad didn’t like it,” said Parcher. “So I had to learn to do things right-handed and even today I am able to do many things with either hand.”
He hasn’t had any other lasting effects but admits to looking up in the air anytime he hears the sound of a helicopter such as the ones hospitals use.
When he got out of the service, he went back to Iowa State on the GI Bill and got a degree in horticulture.
Now retired, he held several jobs over the years, including ones in forestry, horticulture and landscaping.
One day he got a special package in the mail from the pilot he was with on the day he was shot in Vietnam.
The gift was the bullet that had gone through his arm and lodged in padding on the helicopter.
Is it framed or in a display case in his home, he was asked.
“No,” Parcher said with a laugh. “It’s in a drawer somewhere.”