Specialist 4 Willard F. Parish was born June 1941 in Bristow, Oklahoma. He enlisted in the Army in 1963 and trained as a mortarman. As a member of Company C, 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, 1st Calvary Division, Parish was involved in the first major battle between the United States Army and the Peoples' Army of Vietnam. He was part of the search-and-destroy "Pleiku Campaign" that took place at Landing Zone X-Ray from 23 October to 26 November 1965. On the second day of that battle, the Viet Cong launched an assault on Crack Rock, near its connection with the beleaguered Charlie Company. Under heavy attack on three sides by a numerically superior force of Viet Cong Guerrillas and North Vietnamese Regulars, the battalion fought off repeated waves of enemy infantry and suffered several wounded.
It was during this battle that Parish, normally a mortarman, was operating an M-60 machine gun on the defensive perimeter of his company. As insurgent forces attacked, Parish delivered lethal fire from his foxhole position into the advancing Viet Cong enemy. When he ran out of machine gun ammunition, Parish stood up with a .45-caliber automatic pistol in each hand and kept engaging the Viet Cong advancing force. Later, more than 100 of the enemy were found dead in a semi-circle in front of his machine gun position. Parish was awarded the Silver Star for valor as a testament to his courage in the face of the enemy, determination, and heroic actions at Landing Zone X-Ray on the morning of 15 November 1965. Spec 4 Parish's actions saved the lives of his many fellow comrades.
Following his discharge from the Army, Parish was a country and western band leader and disc jockey. He was employed by the city of Bristow with the Oklahoma Turner Turnpike Authority for 16 years.