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Don Parks

Don Parks

  • Service Branch: United States Airforce
  • Service Dates: 1955–1959
  • Stationed: Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri
  • Rank: Electronics and Armament Squadron

“Initially, I wanted to join the Navy after graduating from Cambridge (Md.) High School in 1955. I was hoping I could learn a trade and, at the same time, satisfy my mandate for military service,” Don said a group of boys had previously signed up for the Navy and Don wanted to go with them. “C’mon,” said one of the boys, “I’ll introduce you to the recruiter and he’ll sign you up to go with us.” Upon entering the recruitment office, he told the recruiter about a back injury that Parks had received while playing football. The recruiter pulled a raft of papers from his desk explaining that the various physicians Parks had seen would need to sign off that his back problem had been corrected, Don knew they wouldn’t do that and went to the Air Force recruiter and signed up.
“The following October I was sworn into the Air Force,” Don said. “Because I was only 17, my parents had to sign an affidavit permitting me to join. My mother was tearful and my dad pensive, but they finally signed, and I was off to basic training at Sampson Air Force Base, Geneva, New York.”
Basic Training was 12 weeks in duration and Geneva New York was very cold. “We only wore thin, unlined field jackets until late November when they finally issued parkas,” he continued. “The old barracks where we stayed was frigid. We slept with our heavy overcoats on top of the wool blanket that we were each issued. There was no insulation, you could see outside through the cracks between the siding. In the morning, the number 1O cans filled with water were frozen solid.” Despite the hardships, Don enjoyed basic training. His squadron marched everywhere they went, and instead of constantly counting cadence, the group sang such tunes as, “The Sampson Mombo.” In mid-December, as Basic came to an end, Don was told he was going to be sent to school for jet engine mechanic training. This was pleasing to him, and he foresaw a career in the airline industry.
Before Christmas, other boys in his group mustered out and went home on a 10-day leave. Parks was red-lined. This meant he was required to remain at Sampson in the Transit Barracks until an assignment was forthcoming. In January, orders came to report to Whiteman Air Force in Missouri. “I could tell by some of the papers that I was not headed for jet mechanics school,” said Don. “Instead, I was assigned to an electronics and armament squadron.”
Don’s job involved cataloging, storing, and maintaining records regarding specific aircraft in which each electronic item was installed. It was not challenging work. Some of the equipment was heavy, bulky and had to be carried some distance to a window for issuance.
The base was only 60 miles from Kansas City which became a second home on off-duty days. In Kansas City, Parks was introduced to his first cigarette and first beer. Let the party begin!
Parks remained at Whiteman for the duration of his time in the Air Force. He interacted with interesting people from across the country. Many of these friendships lasted for many years. He separated from the Air Force in September 1959, returned home, and enrolled in Salisbury State College (now Salisbury University.) A 35-year career in public and private education followed.
In 2021, Parks relocated to Londonderry from St. Michaels.

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