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Eleazar Parmly IV No.15830 Class of 1946 Died 19 July 1977 in Tifton, Georgia, aged 52 years. Interment: West Point Cemetery, West Point, New York.
Here is a name out of history, Eleazar the First having been a distinguished president of Dartmouth College. His great-grandson graduated from West Point in 1946. Eleazar Parmly III also graduated from West Point in 1924, the year before Lea was born at Walter Reed, and went on to serve a career as a field artilleryman. On his mother, Dorethe's side of the family were: Major Elvin R. Heiberg (United States Military Academy, Class of 1896), Brigadier General E.R.D. Heiberg (United States Military Academy, Class of 1926), Colonel H.H.D. Heiberg (United States Military Academy, Class of June 1919), classmate and cousin Colonel H.H.D. Heiberg II, and cousins E.R. Heiberg III and W.L.H. Heiberg (respectively United States Military Academy, Classes of 1953 and 1960). Indeed out of, and a part of, history.
For 52 years Lea lived life to the fullest and contributed more than his share to the growing family chronicle of service to country. He was also a devoted husband, a loving father and family man, and served God with the same enthusiasm that he demonstrated throughout his life for anything he undertook-maybe even more so!
As an Army brat he lived at Fort Ethan Allen, Vermont; Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; West Point; and Washington, D.C., where he graduated from Western High School in June 1943. It is little wonder that Lea chose to enter West Point with the Class of 1946 on 1 July 1943. While at West Point, Lea distinguished himself as a cross country runner and miler on the track team. He was also frequently attendant at social events with a Post drag, Marie West, daughter of Colonel C.W. West (United States Military Academy, Class of 1920). Marie and Lea married at graduation, in the West Point Catholic Chapel. They have five children as a result of this life-long union--three daughters: Elizabeth Marie, Barbara Jane (elementary school teacher), and Joanne Lea (registered nurse) -and sons, Michael Eleazar and David Whitney. Elizabeth and Joanne are married and presented Lea and Marie with a total of four grandchildren. As of this writing, Michael is serving with the American Embassy in Madrid and David is completing high school, with aspirations for an Army career.
Lea chose the Infantry as a branch of service, and after airborne training became a member of the 511th Airborne Infantry Regiment, in both Japan and later in the United States at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He went on to attend the advance course at the Armor School.
Lea had a fixed idea of his own worth and ability, and this became apparent to others translated into self-confidence, great interest in all things military, and great certainty that his opinions were valid and should be heard. General S.L.A. Marshall, in describing Lea in West to Cambodia, said of him: "one of the most outspoken Army officers extant." No doubt, without Lea's strong personality, sense of humor and, above all, great enthusiasm, the outspokenness could have been a professional handicap when dealing with superiors and others in authority, but it was not. Lea was a professional soldier of top caliber and this was apparent to everyone under whom he served, with or over. His integrity and professionalism could not tolerate less than the truth and the best.
Following a tour in Alaska with the Reserve Officers Training Corps, he joined the 82d Airborne Division, where he discovered the Special Forces, co-located at Fort Bragg. After a tour with the 82d, he had his first tour in Southeast Asia with the Joint Military Assistance Group in Thailand. It must have been during that tour that Lea's fine insight into all manner of people and situations became evident, a characteristic which would stand him in good stead in future assignments. He returned to the States to attend the Command and General Staff College, then promptly volunteered for Special Forces, and shortly thereafter for duty in Laos with a Special Forces task group, "Operation White Star." Though advising Laotian Army forces, this was Lea's first experience with combat and he quickly earned a reputation for personal courage and leadership that constantly grew from that time. He was widely known throughout the Special Forces as a forceful and skilled tactician--a man who knew how to fight and could be counted upon to do so at the appropriate times.
Lea returned again to the States for a tour at West Point with the Tactical Department, where he became known to the cadets as "Ranger Major Parmly." In his constant contacts with the cadets Lea shared his experience and imparted his professionalism and respect for authority, which was a derivative of his determination to become the one in authority himself. Lea knew how to follow orders and believed that the way to become an order-giver was first and cheer-fully to be an order-taker. Although a good and loyal subordinate, Lea was capable of a sort of good-humored tongue-in-cheek persistence until he had his own way in the end, to do things as he saw best. This patience, coupled with the professionalism and great energy already described, made Lea a success in those fields he chose to follow throughout his life-his Army, his family and especially his God.
After two years with the Southern Command in and about Panama, Lea returned to Southeast Asia in 1966, for the third time to serve in Vietnam with the 5th Special Forces Group. There he was given an assignment commensurate with his ability, as commander of all Special Forces in the South Vietnamese II Corps Area. His command consisted of 22,000 riflemen, largely Montagnards led by United States and Vietnamese Special Forces detachments, and covered the largest area of the four corps. Although he served a confusing array of American and Vietnamese commanders concurrently, the qualities heretofore described stood him in excellent stead and his outstanding reputation continued to spread. With approximately 30 independent camps spread over hundreds of miles of highland wilderness, Lea was constantly dealing with tactical, logistical, intelligence, administrative and personnel problems that could swamp any but the most experienced commander. General Marshall in the book previously referenced accurately describes the scope of Lea's activities in "A Small Problem of Command," a vignette on a combat excursion into the remote and deadly Plei Trap Valley. Lea left Vietnam physically drained by his constant activities and a bout with Blackwater Fever, but decorated with the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star for Valor, the Purple Heart and the cherished Combat Infantryman's Badge, as well as Vietnamese awards for valor and service.
Lea served the inevitable Pentagon tour followed once more by a position of leadership and teacher of future officers as Professor of Military Science at Johns Hopkins University. He also qualified as a Master of Liberal Arts in geography while on that campus. At that time Lea planned to retire, but was asked to become the Treasurer at West Point. His love of the Service and loyalty to the Military Academy saw him take his zest for living back to the Point, the focal point of much of his life. There Lea handled his myriad responsibilities as superbly as he did everything prior to that assignment.
He did retire in 1975, and moved to a condominium at Crescent Beach near St. Augustine, Florida. He grew a beard, became active in counseling young people and in various religious activities. At the Class of 1946 thirtieth reunion, Lea and Marie were everywhere, bursting with enthusiasm for life and the future. He applied to the University of Florida and was ac- cepted as a candidate for an advanced degree in gerentology. This was entirely In keeping with his desire to love and serve God through people where he saw need. It was this service to his Maker which took him with Marie and two friends to Kansas City for a charismatic conference. There was a tragic accident near Tifton, Georgia, which instantly killed Lea and his friend, John McGuiness, and seriously injured Marie and Sister Roseanne (who later died). Thankfully, Marie recovered and continues God's works. Death for Lea, this vital, zestful individual, was unexpected and quick. There can be little doubt that he continues his cheerfully energetic services with the Lord.
Lea was buried at West Point from the Chapel of the Most Holy Trinity. The Mass of the Resurrection was joyfully celebrated by ten priests, dear friends, with Lea's children and grandchildren, mother, sister and brother with their families, the Cursillo and marriage encounter communities from the surrounding areas joining his many Army friends. Truly we can praise the Lord that Lea is with Him. Lea will always be gripping hands with us and encouraging each with whom he came in contact in life to follow the entreaty in the Cadet Prayer: "Help us to maintain the honor of the Corps untarnished and unsullied and to show forth in our lives the ideals of West Point in doing our duty to Thee and to our Country." Lea did in this in every sense of the phrase, We shall miss him very much!