Col. Thomas Parrott of Dalton was a POW in Vietnam for more than 5 years

BeLinda Stevens Parrish remembers the parade Dalton threw for returning Vietnam War hero Thomas Vance Parrott, who spent more than five years in a North Vietnamese prisoner of war (POW) camp.

“He was my cousin by marriage, not by blood,” she said. “I remember watching TV when prisoners were brought home and my mama crying when Thomas got off the airplane. I did attend the parade when Dalton gave him the key to the city, and, I believe, a new car. I only talked to him once when my uncle passed away and he was so kind. He had already moved away from Dalton by that time.”

Parrott was born in Chattanooga and raised further up the road in Knoxville, according to his profile on the valor.militarytimes.com website. He graduated from Dalton High School in 1956, then earned his wings in the U.S. Air Force in 1960. After serving as a navigator and navigator instructor, Parrott was deployed to Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand. While stationed there, Parrott was a reconnaissance system operator for the RF-4C recon jet serving in the 11th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, according to veterantributes.org.

On Aug. 12, 1967, Capt. Edwin L. Atterberry and Parrott were “sent on a reconnaissance mission over Ha Bac Province, North Vietnam,” the website pownetwork.org states.

“Two RF-4s were in formation about 10 miles northeast of the city of Gia Lam,” the site details. “Parrott’s aircraft was tracked and hit by a SAM (surface-to-air missile) and the crew was forced to eject. Upon landing, Parrott was unconscious for about a week or so. Both Atterberry and Parrott were captured by the North Vietnamese and moved to the Hanoi prison system. There they joined other Americans captured before them. They discovered that despite rigorous training, they were not fully prepared for capture by the North Vietnamese.”

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