To the Gates of Hell/Laurel Houck

To the Gates of Hell

“A Navy Corpsman will go to the gates of hell to help a wounded Marine, even if it cost him his
own life. These men are the embodiment of courage.” Unknown Marine
Doc. One small word that encompasses stories, sacrifice, and a heart bigger than Camp
Reasoner where Robert Parsons was stationed in Danang, Vietnam, from 1967 to 1968. As a
Corpsman assigned to Delta Company First Recon Battalion, Doc Parsons went out on numerous
patrols with his recon brothers.

Even the most battle-hardened Marines respected his contribution to the team’s
effectiveness during perilous times. Doc’s medical satchel across his chest spoke of his calling.
The M-79, shotgun, or M-16 he carried on various missions told the story of his independent
dedication to the cause of freedom.

Although some have called him, ‘Rambo before there was a Rambo,’ Doc never let battle
harden his heart. When the team captured a prisoner on Charlie Ridge, Doc shared his food and
water with the man. And later, as shells exploded around the harbor site, he threw his body over
that of the NVA to protect him.

The up close and personal nature of war came to Doc out in the bush late one freezing
night in the mountains. The cold penetrated his tiger stripes, and his teeth chattered. Thinking it a
good idea, Doc and a corporal in the unit took off their shirts, hung them on a branch, and
huddled together for warmth. The next morning, their shirts had frozen. They were forced to
shove their arms into sleeves starched with crystallized ice.

Many years later, Doc related this story in a crowded, warm restaurant near his home in
Knoxville, Tennessee. In a booming voice, he told the former corporal’s wife, “I slept with him
before you did!”

To the Gates of Hell/Laurel Houck

From sitting in a chair at a USO show with sunglasses on and long legs extended, to
working every day until the end, Doc could have been a Hollywood movie star on the set of his
own life. His chiseled chin, lanky frame, and strong arms were hallmarks not only of his physical
being but also of his strength of character.
One of the last lines of the Marine Corps Hymn whispers of Doc’s legacy:
If the Army and the Navy ever look on Heaven’s scenes; they will find the streets are guarded by
United States Marines.
And those Marines will be under the loving care of Corpsman Robert (Doc) Parsons.

Thanks to Rhonda and Mark Parsons for reuniting Doc with the men he served with and served.
Rest in Peace, Doc.

Robert Lee "Doc" Parsons

January 20, 1946 - January 20, 2021

Robert Lee (“Doc”) Parsons, 75, of Seymour, passed away on his birthday, January 20th, 2021 from a massive stroke. He graduated from Alcoa High School and attended Lenoir Community College and East Carolina University. He served with the United States Navy from 1966—1970 and attended basic training and Corps School in San Diego. He was assigned to the Naval Hospital at Camp Lejeune from July 1967 until his tour in Vietnam (January 1968—January 1969). He was a Corpsman with Rockmat Unit, Delta Company, First Recon Battalion. Upon his return from Vietnam, he was reassigned to Camp Lejeune until his discharge from the Navy. He stayed close to Camp Lejeune and became the director of the Emergency Medical Service for Lenoir County, NC. from 1973 until 1984. He has been a valued employee of Chariots of Hire in Knoxville for the past 15 years.

He was preceded in death by his father, Robert F Parsons, and his mother, Mary Sue Parsons.

Survivors include sons, Robert D. Parsons (Michele) of Jacksonville, NC, and Matthew L. Parsons of Jacksonville, NC; granddaughter, Sophia Parsons of Jacksonville, NC; sister, Linda Parsons of Knoxville, brother John Mark Parsons (Rhonda) of Seymour; niece, Avery Parsons, of Seymour, and ex-wife and the mother of his sons, Brenda Bass of Wilson, NC.

Bob had a heart of gold and would give a stranger the shirt off of his back. We are told of a story when he was in the jungle of Vietnam on a mission that he gave a prisoner half of his food and water.

A memorial service will be held at the East Tennessee Veteran’s Cemetery on February 19th at 2:00pm with full military honors. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, you make a contribution to the charity of your choice.

Delta Company, 67/68

Hi Floyd,

We lost another, Doc Robert Parsons, Delta Company, 67/68. Attached is an obituary written by Laurel Hauck, wife of Harry Mundorf one of Doc Parson’s teammates.

Dave ‘Doc’ Snider