U.S. Navy veteran who ‘left his heart and soul in Vietnam’ remembered as hero
Written by Ann Friel
Larry Dean Parr and his twin sister, Linda Parr Lawton were born on August 4, 1947 in Charleston, Missouri to Willis and Muriel Parr. Larry graduated from high school in May of 1965 and immediately entered the US Navy. In 1966, he married Donna, his high school sweetheart, and they soon became a military family with two daughters: Cristal and Mindy.
Larry was deployed to Vietnam in February 1970 until March 1971. As a result of his service in Vietnam, Larry was awarded with several medals, including the Navy Achievement Medal and a citation from President Richard Nixon. The citation recognizes Larry’s service on the repair ship, USS Krishna, which had been engaged in armed conflict against the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong communist aggressors in the Republic of Vietnam. His citation notes the great service he provided in preventing the ship from sinking when it hit an underwater mine and rescuing many of his fellow crew members even though many died or were severely wounded.
The Presidential citation reads: “Petty Officer Parr’s exemplary professionalism and untiring devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”
On January 8, 1980, Larry was honorably discharged from the US Navy after 15 years of loyal service to this country.
Like many other Vietnam veterans, Larry returned home a very changed man. Donna remembers that “Larry was a beautiful, outgoing and happy person, sweet and kind.
After Vietnam, that person no longer existed.” In her own words: “Vietnam took him even though he did not die until 13 years later.” Larry suffered from alcoholism, frequent nightmares and debilitating depression so severe that he eventually could not function. Diagnosed by several doctors with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Larry took his own life at age 36 on February 25, 1984, more than a decade after returning home from fighting for his country.
After his death, his wife, Donna, applied for benefits from the Veterans Administration for her and their two daughters, who were 9 and 15, at the time. She was denied. The VA said his death had to be service-connected.
With the help of Alabama Congressman Bill Dikinson, the Veterans Service Officer and the American Legion, which became her power of attorney, Donna won her case. Larry Parr’s death was then determined to be Vietnam-related due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). His was one of the first cases recognized by the VA where PTSD was determined to be a true illness related to Vietnam. Then, Donna and her girls were awarded their rightful benefits.
His daughters, Cristal and Mindy, encapsulate the love and admiration they and their mother feel for their father. “Thanks to the benefits we received, we were able to attend college. It had been our dream to have our father’s name added to The Wall along with his buddies who died that night when his ship hit the mine. Our father came home, but he left his heart and soul in Vietnam.”
“He never got over and could never deal with the pain of the experience, so he eventually gave up. He was a wonderful father through it all though and we miss him very much,” the family added.
After a long and difficult journey, Larry Parr was rightfully added to the virtual pantheon of heroes who served their country with honor and bravery and later passed away as a result of their service. He was honored through VVMF’s In Memory program in the 1990s and is remembered through their online Honor Roll.
“We are thankful for the opportunity to honor him with the ‘In Memory’ program that you have given us,” the family says.
His sacrifice will never be forgotten.