A Community of Service: Dr. Steve Parvin

Dr. Steve Parvin holds photos from his time in the military (Photo by Logan Kirkland)
Staff Writer

At age 25, Starkville native Steve Parvin was in medical school when the Vietnam War started to gain momentum.

Draft number after draft number was called until Parvin made a decision.

“Our country needed doctors and that was the way to serve,” Parvin said “Let’s do this.”

Parvin volunteered to join the United States Navy. He joined while he was still a medical student and after he finished his training and his internship, he went into active duty.

At the time of volunteering, he said he did not recall many negative conversations. Even at 25, Parvin said he didn’t feel nervous about going to war.

“It was just something I felt needed to be done,” Parvin said. For many of the people serving, Parvin felt the obligation to serve was the mentality.


Parvin went to Pensacola, Florida to train to be a Navy flight surgeon, where he was deployed to Vietnam, Japan and the Philippines.

He also lived in both Hawaii and Japan. Parvin’s main duties on a P3 squadron was to make sure those flying the vessels were healthy and could operate to the best of their ability. He even had the authority to ground the plane if he felt people piloting were ill, suffering from exhaustion or if he could tell they were struggling with personal problems.

He also had the ability to prescribe glasses.

“I had to make sure that these people were at the tip of their ability to fly and accomplish the mission,” Parvin said.

Another part of Parvin’s duties was to track submarines and to identify boats and trollers who were supplying the North Vietnamese soldiers in South Vietnam. They would identify the target and other command would take them out.

During Parvin’s time in Vietnam he said he was never in any real danger. Due to the sporadic nature of their rotation for missions, there were only a few times where they were attacked.

“In Vietnam we would get shelled, that was the main danger,” Parvin said. “We had flight crews that were being shot at and we had bases that we were stationed at that were motared.”


When Parvin came back from Vietnam, and retired from the Navy, he took care of his father who was sick. He said because there was nowhere to drill in the Navy reserve, a friend of his talked him into joining the Army Reserves and was soon after, reactivated for Desert Storm.

“When the war broke out there was a need for surgeons and they went looking for them,” Parvin said. “And there I was.” In Desert Storm, Parvin served as a trauma surgeon attached to a M.A.S.H. unit combat support hospital, where he spent six months.

“We were there to take care of the people that were injured during the war process,” Parvin said. “Most of the people we dealt with were people that stepped on mines and stuff like that.”

Parvin served in Kuwait City and Saudi Arabia to take care of civilians and soldiers until it was time to go to Iraq. Parvin described the hospital unit as a giant tent and for operations, they would utilize a trailer-like building. He said at these hospitals, they had the best doctors and nurses which probably added up to about 400 people.

“We could do anything,” Parvin said.

One night Parvin remembered vividly was when the United States decided to invade Iraq. He said it was extremely rainy, windy and freezing cold.

“That night was miserable, God it was miserable,” Parvin said.

The American soldiers moved ahead and Parvin said he never saw them again because they moved so fast. He said they stopped anything in their way.

“The only reason they stopped was they ran out of gasoline or bullets,” Parvin said. “They were tough, and they were good, Iraqis couldn’t hold a light to our troops.”


Parvin said the transition was tough for many coming back from Vietnam, but fortunately, it was not for him. He said being away from family was challenging, but he was able to have his family be with him for some time while in the Vietnam War.

Coming back from the war, Parvin said he was lucky to be on the military plane back to the states and did not have to go through civilian airports. The war was not popular among the public, so many troops were faced with ridicule instead of open arms.

“So many people went and were treated so badly,” Parvin said.

When Parvin had to close his practice for six months, when getting activated for Desert Storm, other doctors in the area took his patients and hired his employees and gave them all back when he came back from Desert Storm.

“It was really a big deal for them to step forward and do that,” Parvin said.


When asked what goes through his mind when he is looking at the flag and the national anthem is playing, he fell silent.

“For me it’s very emotional,” he said fighting back tears. “It’s very emotional for me.”

Parvin said there are many young people today missing out on what serving for the country can do for them. He said young people these days are rushed into finding a job and moving through the process.

He said he doesn’t see anything wrong with someone devoting a year or two to either the military or charitable services because there are so many people in need.

“People need to serve this country as opposed to just existing here, and seeing what the country can do for you,” Parvin said. “I know it would make people proud if they did
serve our country.”

He said service adds whole a new appreciation of life and those who surrounded you at the time of conflict. He said he will never forget those he went to war with because for him they were family.

“By and large the military takes care of its own and it’s a close knit community,” Parvin said. “For me it was a good life.”