From the VETERANS series:
Desert Storm, U.S. Army, 369th Harlem Hell Fighters Unit, Military Communications Specialist
Dates of service:1989-91
[DeNorval Parks was interviewed by Nina Talbot in one of the barber shops he manages in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn on December 7, 2009.]
“And I’m still here.”
December 7, 2009
“I enlisted in the service on September 26, 1989 to avoid being killed in the streets of Fort Greene, Brooklyn. I was seventeen years old at the time. I was known as “Young Parks” by my commanding officer, Sgt. Tillie.
“My grandfather was a WWII vet who was saved by a French soldier named DeNorval. My grandfather was the last person the French soldier saw before he died, and he promised to give one of his children that name. One of my memories of the military was of a loud sound; a Scud missile warhead hit a building where a group of soldiers had just gotten back from the US. They were killed instantly and went right back home in body bags. I was driving away in a truck and heard the boom, looked back and saw an explosion of black oil fire.
“I saved MREs (meal ready to eat) food from five days to give to hungry kids. Two boys came running after the truck for handouts - I gave them each a bag of the food. The older one grabbed the younger one’s bag, and that young one turned around, grabbed a knife out of his pocket, stabbed the older one, taking his bag back and the older one’s bag too.”I don’t want ever want to see my sons fighting over food,” after that experience.
“I walked in the middle of a minefield, and couldn’t find my way back to the truck because of fog. A buddy threw me a pipe to help me find the way, and I was saved. The main highway was dubbed Death Valley Highway by the soldiers, a six lane highway with deserted military trucks strewn along the way.
I returned back home in one piece, but in New Jersey, I lost both legs below the knee in a car collision and now wear prosthetics. I “died” six times en route to a hospital via helicopter.
“And I’m still here.”
DeNorval Parks is the manager of a chain of barbershops in Brooklyn and Harlem. He was a Military Communications Specialist in the 369th Harlem Hell Fighters Unit in Desert Storm from 1990 till 1991. His training was at the McGuire Air Force Base in Fort Dix.