MIA no more: Remembering Ronald Page Paschall

The Meadowdale graduate died saving a comrade
By Betty Lou Gaeng | May 26, 2017
Courtesy of: Betty Lou Gaeng Ronald Page Paschall died on Easter Sunday 45 years ago

For over 20 years, Ron Paschall’s earthly remains were lost in the jungles of South Vietnam. Long after he died a hero’s death in Vietnam, Ronald Page Paschall was found, and he finally came home to be put to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. He was brought home quietly and without fanfare.

During the Vietnam era, while many people in this country demonstrated, Ron was a young service man with a special mission – to save others. Death came to the 21-year-old when he set aside his own safety and turned back to rescue a comrade.

Ron Paschall was born in California on Nov. 1, 1950, and grew up in Lynnwood (Alderwood Manor). He attended Meadowdale High School, graduating in 1969.

Following graduation, Ron was drafted into the Army – his hometown given as Alderwood Manor. In the Army, Ron served as a Specialist 5th Class, listed as a helicopter repairer – F Troop, 8th Cavalry, 196th Infantry.

Even before his final act of heroism, Ron had been awarded the Soldier’s Medal for another act of bravery. The Soldier’s Medal is an individual medal awarded to a member of the Armed Forces who distinguishes himself or herself by heroism not involved in actual combat with the enemy.

On Oct. 6, 1970, the 19-year-old risked his own life in order to save the crew of a burning helicopter. He entered the wreckage while it was fully ablaze and pulled the crewmen to safety, just before the helicopter exploded. One of those he rescued was the company commander.

At the time of his death, Ron was only six days from completing his tour of duty and returning home to his family. It was Easter Sunday, April 2, 1972, at Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam, during yet another rescue mission.

That’s when Ron gave his life in performing that most courageous act a person can make – he sacrificed his own life in an attempt to save another. “Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

As told in the report of this dangerous and fatal rescue mission, Ron was crew chief on a four-person Huey helicopter. On April 2, they were on a mission to locate and rescue Lt. Col. “Gene” Hambleton, USAF. Lt. Col. Hambleton was the sole survivor of an EB-66 aircraft shot down by the enemy.

The story was told in the 1988 movie “BAT*21.” The reason the rescue was considered of such importance to the United States forces was because the colonel was an expert on electronic weapons systems. This was known to the North Vietnamese, and they had begun an all-out-search in order to capture Hambleton.

The Americans also began their own search-and rescue-mission. Actually, it wasn’t until 11 days later that the rescue was successful; in the meantime, the mission resulted in the deaths of several men.

During the mission, Ron’s helicopter with shot down. According to an eyewitness, Ron had safely exited the downed aircraft and turned back to help a pinned-down crewmember. At that moment, enemy fire blew up helicopter. Along with two other men, Ron was trapped and died in the blast.

Ron and his two comrades on the helicopter, Lt. Byron Kent Kulland and Chief Warrant Officer John Wesley Frink, were listed as missing in action. On Feb. 8, 1993, over 20 years later, their remains were discovered and returned to the United States, where they were later officially identified.

The lone survivor from the helicopter was captured by the enemy and did not know the final fate of the other men until later. In 1994, this survivor had the chance to meet the families of his fellow servicemen when he attended the burial services when Ron and his two comrades were interred together in Arlington.

Locally, Ron is honored on the Edmonds School District 15 Memorial Monument in Edmonds. He is also remembered on Panel W2, Line 128, of the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C.

In addition, his name was also inscribed on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (the Punchbowl) in Honolulu.

Ironically, on March 3, 2014, TV station WTVQ, an ABC affiliate in Lexington, Kentucky, broadcast some interesting news. Working on a horse farm just outside of Lexington, a man by the name of Pete Gunter saw something shiny in the paddock. It was a bracelet with a soldier’s name on it.

His wife did some research and found that the bracelet was one given to family and friends of soldiers who were missing in action. The name on the bracelet was that of Ronald Page Paschall.

Longtime local historian Betty Lou Gaeng is a member of the Edmonds Cemetery Board.

 

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