Specialist 4 Willard F. Parish was born June 30, 1941, and grew up in Bristow. He entered the Army in November 1963 and trained as a mortarman.
He was awarded the Silver Star for Gallantry in the first major battle in Vietnam between American and North Vietnamese troops. The unit fought in the Ia Drang Valley west of Plei Me at Landing Zone X-Ray on Nov. 14 and 15, 1965. Parish fired an M-60 machine gun during this battle. He would say he looked to the front and “they (the enemy) were growing out of the weeds.”
When he ran out of ammunition, he stood up with a .45-caliber pistol in each hand and continued fighting the enemy force. He was awarded the Silver Star because of his “courage in the face of the enemy, his determination and heroic actions which saved many of his comrades in that area,” his Silver Star citation said. After the Army he was a country and western band leader and worked for the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.
A Marlow native, who was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously during World War II, will be inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame on Oct. 21 in Norman.
Private First Class Herman C. Wallace, who was born in Marlow, Ok., in 1924, was killed on Feb. 27, 1945, when he shielded his fellow soldiers from an exploding mine.
Wallace lived in Texas before the war. He and his family moved from Oklahoma to Texas in 1930 or 1931, for economic reasons, but had deep Oklahoma roots. The family members were farmers, according to a relative.
His parents, Ernest Wallace and Cleatus Shaw, were married in Duncan, Ok. On June 9, 1920. They apparently had lived in Oklahoma some time.
After moving to Texas, Herman Wallace graduated from Lubbock High School and attended Texas Tech University for one year, majoring in engineering.
Wallace joined the Army in 1942 and served in Company B, 301st Engineer Combat Battalion, and 76th Infantry Division. He was killed in action near Prumzurley, Germany while helping clear enemy mines from a road.
Wallace stepped on a well-concealed German S-Type anti-personnel mine. It was called the shrapnel mine or Bouncing Betty because it was thrown into the air, about waist high, and when it exploded it released hundreds of ball bearings, causing many casualties.
Wallace knew falling to the ground in a prone position gave him the best chance to survive, his Medal of Honor citation said. He also knew that doing that would spray the area with fragments and likely kill two of his comrades directly behind him, his citation said. Wallace deliberately put his other foot on the mine and was killed when it exploded.
“Private Wallace was killed when the charge detonated, but his supreme heroism at the cost of his life confined the blast to the ground and his own body and saved his fellow soldiers from death or injury,” his Medal of Honor citation said.
A large installation in the Bad Cannstatt district of Stuttgart, Germany, originally built by Germany, was occupied by American troops after the War. It was named Wallace Barracks in honor of Wallace.
Colonel William H. Talley was born 26 November 1932 and raised in Sayre, Oklahoma. He is a 1955 graduate of Oklahoma A&M College (now Oklahoma State University) in Stillwater, Oklahoma. He earned his commission into the U.S. Air Force through the Reserve Officer Training Corps on 28 May 1955. Talley was awarded his pilot wings upon completion of Undergraduate Pilot Training at Webb Air Force Base, Texas, in September 1956. After completing Advanced Fighter Training and Reconnaissance School, he was assigned to the 29th, 20th, and 17th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadrons (TRS) at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.
In May 1959, Talley deployed with the 17th TRS to Laon, France. He returned to the states in June 1962 and was assigned as an instructor pilot with the 3575th Pilot Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Oklahoma. In October 1966, he was assigned to Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas as a flight test maintenance officer. Talley completed F-105 Thunderchief Combat Crew Training and Wild Weasel Training before being deployed to Southeast Asia in January 1969. Talley flew 151 combat missions as an F-105 pilot with the 44th Tactical Fighter Squadron out of Korat Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand.
Returning to the states in November 1969, Talley was assigned to McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, as an F-105 instructor pilot and later as an F-105G pilot with the 561st Tactical Fighter Squadron. While deployed on temporary duty with the 17th Wild Weasel Squadron, 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, in Southeast Asia, he flew 31 combat missions. He received a Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor for actions while flying his F-105G Wild Weasel on 21 April 1972 in support of F-4 air strikes against a strategic target. Suppressing hostile enemy surface-to-air missile sites and radar controlled antiaircraft artillery batteries, he enabled the F-4’s to destroy their targets and egress safely. Then on 11 May 1972, while on another Wild Weasel mission in support of Operation Linebacker, Talley and his Electronics Warfare Officer were shot down by a MIG near Hanoi. They evaded North Vietnamese Army search parties for about eighteen hours, but were subsequently captured and taken as Prisoners of War to the “Hanoi Hilton” prison camp. Talley spent 322 days in harsh captivity and was released during Operation Homecoming on 28 March 1973.
Upon return to the states, Talley earned his MBA at the University of Oklahoma and then attended Air War College graduating in June 1976. He was then assigned as Deputy Commander, 35th Combat Support Group, George Air Force Base, California. In May 1978 he returned to Oklahoma assigned to Tinker Air Force Base as the Chief of Weapons Systems and Major Equipment Division under the Directorate of Contracting and Manufacturing, Oklahoma Air Logistics Center. His decorations include the Legion of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Cross Medals with Valor, Bronze Star Medal with Valor, and the Purple Heart Medal. Talley retired on 1 December 1981.
For countless alumni of Oklahoma’s ROTC programs, certain cadre are warmly remembered as role models and mentors — perhaps in some cases as often demanding task-masters.
One such case is found in the person of Lt. Col. Joel Boyd, who is remembered in the above manner by OSU Scabbard and Blade and Army Blades alumni of the mid-1970s. Meeting back on the OSU campus this September, they took up a collection in his memory to help send cadets to this years Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame and to pay for some sort of memorial in the Thatcher Hall cadet lounge.
Through 21 years of service in the U.S. Army and 25 years in his second career in education, Joel saw much of the country and world, but remained a proud Okie his entire life. He served his country in Vietnam, earning the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, and retired in 1984 as a Lieutenant Colonel.
An ardent student of history, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Oklahoma State University.
Joel died at age 73 on March 1, 2015. He was preceded in death by his parents, Joe and Ioma Boyd. He is survived by his loving wife, Pamela; two sons, Sean and Colin; former wife, Donna Boyd; step children, Jennifer Lestino, Matt Taylor; and six grandchildren.
Clearly, he will always be remembered affectionately by the students he influenced as a Scabbard and Blade advisor and ROTC instructor.
Friends from over the nation gathered September 15 through 18 in Stillwater for their second reunion of OSU Army Blades and Scabbard and Blade members of the organizations during the period 1972-1976.
The Army Blades was formed at OSU through Scabbard and Blade as an ROTC support group and drill team. Oklahoma’s current governor, Mary Fallin, was a member. The group is active today on the campus, but no longer as a drill team.
Captain Robert W. Poolaw, Sr. was born 17 July 1938 in Lawton, Oklahoma and grew up on his mother’s Delaware allotted land west of Anadarko as a member of the Kiowa Tribe. Following his High School graduation in 1956, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and served four years in the communications and electronics career field. In 1960 he returned to Oklahoma and received an undergraduate degree in secondary education from Southwestern State College, Weatherford, Oklahoma. Poolaw re-entered the U.S. Marine Corps as an officer in 1964 and retired after 27 years of active service.
Poolaw completed two combat tours in the Republic of South Vietnam. He was wounded in combat, April 1967, when he was struck in the head and shoulders by fragments from a rocket propelled grenade while leading his Marines in battle on Hill 881 South, located approximately two miles south of the Marine Combat Base at Khe Shan. At that time, First Lieutenant Poolaw commanded Headquarters Company, Third Battalion, Third Marine Regiment, Third Marine Division. His second combat wound occurred during his command of Company G, Second Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment, First Marine Division in May 1969. Involved in a firefight in the “Arizona Territory,” in the An Hoa Valley Basin, approximately 25 miles southwest of Danang and just three miles east of the Laotian border, Poolaw was wounded by AK-47 assault rifle fire. Passing through his body armor and his right shoulder, the round partially collapsed his right lung. For his service in Vietnam, he was awarded the Silver Star Medal, two Bronze Star Medals with Valor and two Purple Heart Medals for his wounds received and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Valor..
Following tours in Vietnam, he went on to serve the Marine Corps as Company Commander at Camps Pendleton, California, and Lejeune, North Carolina. Assigned as Staff Platoon Commander at the Marine Basic School, Quantico, Virginia, Poolaw served on a 12-man taskforce that emphasized education and leadership addressing race relations for the Department of Defense. Then during the service draw down in 1975, following the war in Vietnam, Poolaw staying on active duty assumed the rank of Gunnery Sargent and was later promoted to First Sargent serving at Camps Pendleton Camp Lejeune. His personal fitness prowess led to his selection to the all-Marine Track and Field Team where he excelled in the 800 meter run.
Completing his 27-year military career in the Marine Corps in 1987, Poolaw retired as a Captain, the highest rank held while on active duty.
In 1996, Poolaw and two fellow Marines organized the Native American Marine Veteran’s Association to help recognize Marines and celebrate the Marine Corps birthday. Open to all Native American Marines, the celebration includes a pow-wow each year honoring selected individuals as well as garnering financial assistance for active duty Marines to facilitate their leave. Poolaw has been very active in Boy Scouts of America in the Anadarko community. Not only did he achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, his example influenced his son Robert Jr., and Robert Jr.’s three sons, to also earn the rank of Eagle Scout.
In November 2012, the Oklahoma City Chapter of the Society of the Sons of the American Revolution awarded Poolaw their Service Medal with Vietnam Bar and Purple Heart Pin. He will be inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame October 21, 2016.
Lieutenant Colonel William R. Schwertfeger was born in Enid, Oklahoma 22 September 1945 and grew up near Medford, Oklahoma. He graduated from Oklahoma State University 30 June 1967 and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U. S. Air Force through the Air Force ROTC Program.
He entered active duty 12 September 1967 and completed undergraduate Pilot Training at Vance U. S. Air Force Base, Oklahoma, in September 1968. His first and second combat assignments were in the 433rd Tactical Squadron at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand August 1969-June 1970 and 1971. Both assignments supported operations in Vietnam.
On 18 February 1972 he and his Weapons Systems Officer were orbiting a potential enemy site when their F-4 aircraft was struck by a Russian SA2 missile crippling the F-4. He landed his plane in what he believed to be a fairly safe area however he landed in the middle of North Vietnamese Army soldiers moving forward for the launch into the 1972 Easter Offensive in South Vietnam. He and his Weapons System Officer surrendered and began their 407 days as a POW in the “Hanoi Hilton.”
His medals include the three Silver Stars, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, Bronze Star Medal, two Purple Hearts, three Meritorious Service Medals, the Air Medal with the numeral 34, Air Force Commendation Medal and the Prisoner of War Medal.
Lt. Col. Schwertfeger was inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame in 2013.
Medal of Honor recipient Melvin Morris was born in Okmulgee, Okla., Jan. 7, 1942. He entered the Oklahoma Army National Guard in 1959 and later requested to join the active Army. He became one of the first Soldiers to don the ‘green beret’ at the command of President John F. Kennedy, Fort Bragg, N.C., in 1961. Morris volunteered twice for deployments to Vietnam.
Melvin Morris is being recognized for his valorous actions on Sept. 17, 1969, while commanding the Third Company, Third Battalion of the IV Mobile Strike Force near Chi Lang. Then-Staff Sgt. Morris led an advance across enemy lines to retrieve a fallen comrade and single-handedly destroyed an enemy force that had pinned his battalion from a series of bunkers. Staff Sgt. Morris was shot three times as he ran back toward friendly lines with the American casualties, but did not stop until he reached safety.
The Distinguished Service Cross was awarded to then Staff Sgt. Morris in April 1970 for extraordinary heroism during this 1969 battle. After receiving the award, he returned to Vietnam the same month for his second tour. He retired at Fort Hood, Texas in May 1985. Morris currently resides in Cocoa, Fla.
Morris received the Medal of Honor, March 18, 2014; Bronze Star Medal with one Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, Purple Heart with one Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal with “V” Device and one Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Good Conduct Medal Silver with one Loop, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with one Silver Star, Non-commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon with Numeral “3”, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon with Numeral “4”, Combat Infantryman Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, Expert Marksmanship Badge with Rifle Bar, Special Forces Tab, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Bronze Star, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with “60” Device, Vietnam Parachutist Badge, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation with Palm Device, Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Honor Medal Citation, First Class.
SFC Morris will be inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame during the 2016 ceremonies October 21..
Medal of Honor Citation
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:
Staff Sergeant Melvin Morris distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Commander of a Strike Force drawn from Company D, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, during combat operations against an armed enemy in the vicinity of Chi Lang, Republic of Vietnam on September 17, 1969. On that afternoon, Staff Sergeant Morris’ affiliated companies encountered an extensive enemy mine field and were subsequently engaged by a hostile force. Staff Sergeant Morris learned by radio that a fellow team commander had been killed near an enemy bunker and he immediately reorganized his men into an effective assault posture before advancing forward and splitting off with two men to recover the team commander’s body. Observing the maneuver, the hostile force concentrated its fire on Staff Sergeant Morris’ three-man element and successfully wounded both men accompanying him. After assisting the two wounded men back to his forces’ lines, Staff Sergeant Morris charged forward into withering enemy fire with only his men’s suppressive fire as cover. While enemy machine gun emplacements continuously directed strafing fusillades against him, Staff Sergeant Morris destroyed the positions with hand grenades and continued his assault, ultimately eliminating four bunkers. Upon reaching the bunker nearest the fallen team commander, Staff Sergeant Morris repulsed the enemy, retrieved his comrade and began the arduous trek back to friendly lines. He was wounded three times as he struggled forward, but ultimately succeeded in returning his fallen comrade to a friendly position. Staff Sergeant Morris’ extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.
Citation represents Soldier’s rank at time of action.
Bennie Adkins was drafted into the Army Dec. 5, 1956, at the age of 22, from Waurika, Oklahoma. Upon completion of initial training at Fort Bliss, Texas, he was assigned as an Administrative Clerk-Typist to a garrison unit in Giessen, Germany, with a follow-on assignment to the 2nd Infantry Division, at Fort Benning, Georgia. After attending Airborne School, he volunteered for Special Forces, in 1961. He served with the Special Forces for more than 13 years with the 7th, 3rd, 6th and 5th Special Forces Groups (Airborne).
While in the Special Forces, he deployed to the Republic of Vietnam for three non-consecutive tours. His first tour in the Republic of Vietnam lasted from February 1963 to August 1963. His second tour of duty in Vietnam lasted from September 1965 to September 1966. His final Vietnam tour lasted from January 1971 through December 1971.
After Vietnam, Adkins served as First Sergeant for the Army Garrison Communications Command in Fort Huachuca, Arizona. He then joined Class #3 of the Army Sergeants Major Academy in El Paso, Texas. After graduation, Adkins served with the Special Forces at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and then led training at Fort Sherman’s Jungle School in the Panama Canal Zone. He retired from the Army, in 1978.
Adkins earned his bachelor’s degree from Troy State University, in 1979. He earned his Master’s Degree in Education, in 1982, and then, a second Master’s Degree in Management, in 1988, all from Troy State University. Simultaneous to pursuing his degree programs, he established the Adkins Accounting Service, Inc., in Auburn, Alabama, serving as its CEO for 22 years. He also taught night classes at Alabama’s Southern Union Junior College, for 10 years, and at Auburn University, for six years. Adkins has been married to his wife, Mary, for 59 years, and together they have raised five children.
Adkins’ previous awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Bronze Star Medal with one Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster and “V” Device, the Purple Heart with two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal with Bronze Clasp and Five Loops, the National Defense Service Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with one Silver Service Star and one Bronze Service Star, the Presidential Unit Citation, the Meritorious Unit Citation, the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with “60” Device, the Republic of Vietnam Bravery Medal with Brass Star, the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Bronze Star, the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation with Palm Device, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Special Forces Tab, the U.S. Army Master Parachutist Badge, the Vietnamese Parachutist Badge – Two Awards, the Expert Badge with Rifle and Pistol Bars, the Sharpshooter Badge with Carbine Bar, and the Marksman Badge with Machinegun Bar.
CSM Adkins was inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame in 2015.
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to
Sergeant First Class Bennie G. Adkins, United States Army
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:
Sergeant First Class Bennie G. Adkins distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as an Intelligence Sergeant with Detachment A-102, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces, during combat operations against an armed enemy at Camp A Shau, Republic of Vietnam from March 9 to 12, 1966. When the camp was attacked by a large North Vietnamese and Viet Cong force in the early morning hours, Sergeant First Class Adkins rushed through intense enemy fire and manned a mortar position continually adjusting fire for the camp, despite incurring wounds as the mortar pit received several direct hits from enemy mortars. Upon learning that several soldiers were wounded near the center of camp, he temporarily turned the mortar over to another soldier, ran through exploding mortar rounds and dragged several comrades to safety. As the hostile fire subsided, Sergeant First Class Adkins exposed himself to sporadic sniper fire while carrying his wounded comrades to the camp dispensary. When Sergeant First Class Adkins and his group of defenders came under heavy small arms fire from members of the Civilian Irregular Defense Group that had defected to fight with the North Vietnamese, he maneuvered outside the camp to evacuate a seriously wounded American and draw fire all the while successfully covering the rescue. When a resupply air drop landed outside of the camp perimeter, Sergeant First Class Adkins, again, moved outside of the camp walls to retrieve the much needed supplies. During the early morning hours of March 10, 1966 enemy forces launched their main attack and within two hours, Sergeant First Class Adkins was the only man firing a mortar weapon. When all mortar rounds were expended, Sergeant First Class Adkins began placing effective recoilless rifle fire upon enemy positions. Despite receiving additional wounds from enemy rounds exploding on his position, Sergeant First Class Adkins fought off intense waves of attacking Viet Cong. Sergeant First Class Adkins eliminated numerous insurgents with small arms fire after withdrawing to a communications bunker with several soldiers. Running extremely low on ammunition, he returned to the mortar pit, gathered vital ammunition and ran through intense fire back to the bunker. After being ordered to evacuate the camp, Sergeant First Class Adkins and a small group of soldiers destroyed all signal equipment and classified documents, dug their way out of the rear of the bunker and fought their way out of the camp. While carrying a wounded soldier to the extraction point he learned that the last helicopter had already departed. Sergeant First Class Adkins led the group while evading the enemy until they were rescued by helicopter on March 12, 1966. During the thirty eight hour battle and forty eight hours of escape and evasion, fighting with mortars, machine guns, recoilless rifles, small arms, and hand grenades, it was estimated that Sergeant First Class Adkins killed between one hundred thirty five and one hundred seventy five of the enemy while sustaining eighteen different wounds to his body. Sergeant First Class Adkins’ extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Detachment A-102, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces and the United States Army.
George Price Hays was born on September 27, 1892, in China, where his parents worked as Presbyterian missionaries. When he was nine years old, his family returned to the United States, and his father became pastor of the Presbyterian Church in EI Reno. After graduating from EI Reno High School and attending Oklahoma A&M College, he volunteered for military service shortly after our nation entered World War I.
He was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1917, and by July 14, 1918, was a first lieutenant serving in France with the 10th Field Artillery, 3rd Division. On that day, during the Second Battle of the Marne near Greves Farm, his unit came under a heavy German artillery barrage and the communication lines were destroyed.
Despite the intense fire, Hays rode on horseback between his unit, the command post, and two French batteries for the rest of that day and the next. Although he was severely wounded and had seven horses shot out from under him, his efforts contributed to the halt of the German advance. For these actions, he was awarded the Medal of Honor the next year, in 1919.
He commanded the 99th Field Artillery (Pack) from 1940 to 1941; among his subordinates was Captain William Orlando Darby, who went on to found the U.S. Army Rangers. After the United States’ entry into World War II, Hays participated in the Battle of Monte Cassino in early 1944. He commanded the 2nd Infantry Division’s artillery on Omaha Beach during the invasion of Normandy in June of that year.
In late November 1944, after returning to the U.S., Hays took over the 10th Mountain Division when its previous commander fell ill. After training, the division arrived in Italy in January and fought throughout the spring offensive. On April 24, 1945, William Darby was assigned to the division as Hays’ assistant commander; he was killed in action six days later. After the end of the war in Europe, Hays became High Commissioner for the US Occupation Zone in Germany from 1949, and was placed in charge of the occupation forces in Austria from 1952. He retired from the military in 1953, having reached the rank of lieutenant general.
Hays died August 7, 1978. He has been inducted into the OSU Alumni Hall of Fame, and in the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame in 2006.
Medal of Honor Citation
Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, United States Army, 10th Field Artillery, 3d Division.
Place and date: Near Greves Farm, France, 14-July 15, 1918.
Entered service at: Okarche, Oklahoma.
Born: September 27, 1892, China.
General Orders No.34. War Department, 1919.
At the very outset of the unprecedented artillery bombardment by the enemy, his line of communication was destroyed beyond repair. Despite the hazard attached to the mission of runner, he immediately set out to establish contact with the neighboring post of command and further establish liaison with 2 French batteries, visiting their position so frequently that he was mainly responsible for the accurate fire therefrom. While thus engaged, 7 horses were shot under him and he was severely wounded. His activity under most severe fire was an important factor in checking the advance of the enemy.
Oklahoma's Youth Honoring their State's Military Veterans