Raleigh, N.C. — A Raleigh doctor received the military's highest honor for noncombat heroism Saturday for risking his life to save fellow soldiers in Vietnam more than 40 years ago.
Retired Capt. Lyle Parker, 71, received the Soldier's Award from Rep. Brad Miller at the North Carolina Museum in History in downtown Raleigh. Parker was commended for "valor and heroism" in saving the lives of four crew members from a burning helicopter.
Parker said he just did what he was supposed to do as a soldier and a doctor.
"A hero is a guy at the wrong place at the wrong time, with witnesses," he said. "Just about anybody who was sitting there would not have said, 'no,' to this situation, would have responded as I did."
On Jan. 13, 1968, Parker was a doctor with the Army's 154th Medical Detachment at Camp Rainer in Daug Tieng when the base came under attack.
A helicopter crashed, and Parker rushed out into a barrage of mortar, rocket and small arms fire to search the wreckage for survivors. He pulled out four crew members from the wreckage and gave them first aid.
He narrowly escaped injury when the helicopter's damaged engine exploded in a fireball.
Lt. Col. Jack Johnson, an assault helicopter commander, witnessed Parker's actions and was shocked to learn at a later reunion that they had never been recognized. Johnson wrote to Miller's office, urging him to support granting the Soldier's Award to Parker.
"Capt. Parker was not just a doctor; he was a trusted and extremely valuable subordinate commander who had my complete confidence," Johnson wrote in the letter.
“If we were in the field in a fight somewhere – and we were almost on a daily basis in 1967-1968 – 'Doc' would appear in our staging area where all our wounded would be gathered, and ‘Doc’ would be there in action, providing life-saving care."
The recommendation for the medal was submitted late likely only because the Tet Offensive of 1968 put an end to processing paperwork, Johnson wrote.
Parker is retired, lives in Raleigh with his wife and enjoys restoring vintage cars.