Patrick Lee Parker, interviewed by John Springer, Part 1
Patrick Lee Parker, interviewed by John Springer in Fairfield, Maine, June 16, 1999. Parker speaks about the troubled childhood that led him to enlist in the Marine Corps at age 16, basic training at Parris Island, going to basic infantry school, and motor transport school; being stationed in a motor pool in Beaufort, South Carolina for a year and a half before requesting a transfer to Vietnam; being sent to Camp Pendleton for guerrilla warfare school training, then being assigned to the 8th Motor Transport Battalion in Da Nang; receiving word in-transit that all motor transport individuals were to disembark in Okinawa for retraining as machine gunners and mortar men, then being held over in Japan for an additional month until his 18th birthday. Parker explains learning that his life expectancy as a machine gunner was very short, the order of attack in combat engagement, and how gunners become enemy targets, his growing confidence during this training, being assigned to the First Marines (One Five Bravo Company) in Phu Bai, going on ambushes and patrols, the duration of fire fights, and aging fast on patrol. He relates several stories of going on patrol and missions, his fear during the Battle of Hue Se, Thừa Thiên-Huế, Vietnam, because his unit lacked training in urban warfare. He relates his memory of the moment his best friend was killed, when he “got crazy,” going on a retaliatory “killing spree,” and the psychological cost to him after the war knowing he was “a life taker.” Parker explains he crossed “over to the dark side,” the process of becoming numb to death and brutality, learning to smell for the enemy’s body odor, being forced to dehumanize himself and the enemy, the impact of this on soldiers who survived only to commit suicide, and the lack of the VA having no strategies, programs, or treatment plans for addressing PTSD for returning Veterans. Parker gives his perspective on the politics of the war, the media who covered the war, and of the Marine Corp creating a breed of warrior they were ultimately unable to control. He talks about using drugs to self-medicate after the war, the impact of Dana Bradford’s death from being over-prescribed drugs on the VA’s failure to recognize PTSD, and his own struggle with PTSD and maintaining his psychological balance. Text: 32 pp. transcript, 12 pp. supplemental clippings. Time: 02:00:17.