John W. Parsels
John W. Parsels
  • June 28, 1945 - May 11, 2017
  • Tampa, Florida

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PARSELS, John W., 71, Tampa, Florida, died on May 11, 2017 after a long illness with his family by his side. John was a decorated combat veteran. During his 15-year Army career, he earned the National Defense Service Medal, Amy Aviator Badge, Vietnam Service Medal (6 Campaigns), Vietnam Campaign Medal, 7 O/S Bars, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Purple Heart, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal (3 OLC), Armed Forces Reserve Medal.

John was born in Tecumseh, Michigan to Elsie Jenoise Ricketts and Leo Orvil Parsels. He was drafted into the US Army in 1965, completed Officer’s Candidate School (OCS), and trained to fly both fixed wing and helicopters as an Army pilot. John deployed to Korea and then Vietnam in 1969 serving with the HHC, 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division.

In 1970, on a scouting mission above the DMZ, and flying co-pilot, John’s helicopter crashed into a mountain in enemy territory. John’s pilot was killed and John and his crew injured. With a compound fractured leg, John was captured by the regular North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and carried north. His capture was not confirmed and was listed as Missing in Action until his release.

In the 1st year, John was held in solitary confinement in multiple secondary prison camps along the border of Laos and Vietnam. He spent the 2nd year in a secondary camp outside of Hanoi housed with other POWS captured in the south. Shortly before his March 1973 POW release (in the 3rd wave of returnees), John was transferred to the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ from which he was repatriated taking an “angel flight” home.

Upon his return, John was a successful businessman and life member of the American Legion, VFW, and Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association (VHPA). John was also a leader in associations supporting Vietnam MIA and POW families whose loved ones were never repatriated. Married almost 30 years, he assisted his beloved wife, Patty O’Grady Parsels, in her search for her father, a captured F-105D pilot. With her and his children, John returned to North Vietnam in 1990 including a return to two prisoner camps where he was held: Plantation Gardens and Hanoi Hilton. The journey was chronicled by Pulitzer-prize author Sidney Schanberg (Killing Fields).

John was a brave soldier, faithful husband, hero dad, loyal friend, and good and loving man. He is survived by his wife, and two children. Amanda Parsels of NY, his daughter, Sam Enzer of NY, her spouse, Eamonn Parsels of FL, his son, Julia Parsels, his granddaughter, and other distant relatives.

A funeral Mass was conducted in honor of Major Parsels at Sacred Heart Church in Tampa, Florida where he was baptized. Close family, friends, and fellow Vietnam veterans were in attendance. He will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC, with full military honors.

Remember Me

By Patty O’Grady

In Honor of Major John W. Parsels, USA (ret.)

Prisoner of War, Vietnam, 1970-1973


Remember me to those who love

And those who wage the peace

Remember me to those who laugh

Then I am not deceased…

Remember me to those who sing

And those who like to dance

Remember me to those who care

Then I get a second chance…

Remember me to helping hands

And where young children play

Remember me when day is done

Then I live another day…

Remember me to those who seek

And those who stand the test

Remember me to brothers all

Then I can finally rest…

Remember me with faith and hope

And when you are standing tall

If memory brings only tears

Then don’t remember me at all.