Standing in a place I could have been

In the early 1960s, Bob Parks first heard about ROTC. He was studying business administration at Bucknell when he was given the opportunity to give six months of active duty and six years of reserve duty in exchange for tuition and spending money.  Parks immediately accepted the bargain, realizing that if he didn’t, his luck in the draft might not be as fortunate.

But after Parks graduates from ROTC, he was told that he owed two years of active duty service, one of which would be spent in Vietnam.

“I couldn’t believe my luck,” said Parks.

As a newly commissioned second lieutenant, Parks headed to Fort Bliss, Okla. to learn the science and art of the Army artillery program.

In October 1967, Bob Parks and Jim Fuhrman reported to the 5th Battalion of the Army’s 2nd Artillery Unit in Cu Chi, Vietnam.  The two were as different as their hometowns; Fuhrman was from Larslan, Mont., Parks from Bel Air, Md. Despite the contrasts, they were immediately joined by their service and assignment to the Duster Battalion.

Soon after, the commander asked if the men had a preference between the A and B batteries. Neither had a preference, so Parks was assigned to A and Fuhrman to B.

Three months later, on January 4, 1968, 1st Lt. Fuhrman was killed in an attack on his battery.

“He was standing where I would have been standing.  There but the grace of God, it could have been my name on The Wall instead of his,” Parks said, 45 years later.

Parks returned after his year-long deployment ready to move forward.  Almost immediately, he was picked up by a young recruiter for a fledgling technology company known as IBM. During his 28 years with IBM, the company became a national icon.  As a leader and manager, Parks was part of that success.

After IBM, Parks used his skills to lead a variety of non-profit organizations including the Chester River Association, Alzheimer’s Association, and Chesapeake Bay Foundation.  In November, he was chosen as the Executive Director for Horizons at Radcliffe Creek School in Chestertown, Maryland.

On Memorial Day 2012, Parks found himself amongst the crowd in attendance for President Obama’s speech at The Wall.

“His speech and the event were so inspiring, I realized I had to do more,” Parks said.

After donating for years, Parks discovered the Faces Never Forgotten Program; an initiative that attempts to locate photographs of each of the 58,282 service members honored on The Wall to raise money to fund the construction of the Education Center at The Wall.

The Education Center at The Wall will be a place on our National Mall where our military heroes’ stories and sacrifice will never be forgotten.  It is a multi-million dollar, state-of- the-art visitor’s center and learning facility to be built between the Vietnam Veterans and Lincoln Memorials. Visitors will better understand the profound impact the Vietnam War had on their friends and family members, their hometowns and the nation. The Center will feature the faces and stories of the 58,282 men and women on The Wall, honoring those who fell in Vietnam, those who fought and returned, as well as the friends and families of all who served.

Earlier this year, Parks donated to the Faces Never Forgotten Program in memory of 1st Lt. James Fuhrman.  Parks reflected back to the randomness of that moment, over 45 years ago, when he was assigned to his battery.

“I sat there on Memorial Day, realizing I have this wonderful beautiful life with family, friends and successes I could have never imagined,” Parks said. “Jim didn’t have these things because he died that day standing in a place I could have been.  I’ll never forget him.”

To learn more about the Faces Never Forgotten program, click here.