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Veteran Spotlight: Dr. Charles Parton

By Wayne SoaresSpecial to iBerkshires
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NEW MARLBOROUGH, Mass. — Dr. Charles Parton served his country in World War II as a 2nd class pharmacist's mate for nearly four years.
 
At 97 years of age, his memory is still sharp as a tack. He went to naval training in Newport, R.I., and remembered "being the last group to go through there. It was great. I learned all the usual stuff, including the difference between and boat and a ship."
 
Dr. Parton's first assignment would keep him in Newport at the U.S. Naval Hospital, where he was involved in special technician training related to electrocardiograms, or ECGs. 
 
"The head of Columbia Presbyterian would come once a week to work with me," he recalled. "Most patients we got were extensive burn victims ... The burned victims really got to me. We had one fella, burned real bad and every time you had to change his dressing you had to move him and the sheets would become all tangled and he'd be in excruciating pain.
 
"I developed a method where the sheets wouldn't get tangled and caused him less pain. I took it to the head nurse and she told me to just do my job and forget about it."
 
Then he laughed, "years later they made a patent out of it." 
 
His assignments also included missions on sea tugs, rescuing downed planes in the water.
 
What were the holidays like? "Never had time to think of them," he said. "We worked and they just came and went." 
 
He shared a couple of memories, including how tricky it had been to rescue an injured seaman by pulling him up with a wire. 
 
"Another time off the coast of Nantucket, we had a mission to locate a German submarine. We dropped a bunch of charges below, but couldn't find it," he remembered.
 
While based on the island of Helo in Hawaii, he shared the devastation of what a tidal wave can do. 
 
"I got up to get my coffee and go on duty for the day and the officer said, 'you better hang around, we got hit last night with a tidal wave.' It was kind of scary. It flooded most of the island and the carnage was awful," Parton said. "We pulled 22 bodies from all kinds of places." 
 
What was his feeling when he found out the war was over? 
 
"There was an empty period of confusion ... we knew the first [atomic] bomb worked but we didn't know if the Japanese were going to surrender on all fronts," he said. "We were happy it was over — I was glad it was over. It felt good to be safe again."
 
Thoughts on service to his country? 
 
"I honestly didn't think about it as serving my country. The guys in Guadalcanal took a terrible beating, never forgot that. I wanted to go in and fight the Japanese," he said proudly. 
 
After the war, he studied to become a doctor and trained as a pediatric surgeon at several facilities including New York Hospital and the University of Virginia, graduating from Cornell Medical School. He and his wife, Teena, a Searles High graduate, lived in the eastern part of the state for many years before coming back to the Berkshires. 
 
Dr. Charles Parton, thank you for your service to our great country.
 
Wayne Soares is the host of the popular, new veterans cooking show, "The Mess Hall" and entertains our troops around the globe. He is also the host and producer of the Vietnam veterans documentary "Silent Dignity – The Chapter That Never Ends," which will hold its international premiere Saturday, Oct. 29, at Proprietors Lodge in Pittsfield.
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