| 2 min read | by Doug Marrin, |

The following stories are of Manchester’s five young men lost in the Vietnam war. They are memorialized on the Washtenaw County Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall. These edited stories are used by permission from John Kinzinger’s book, Sacrifices Not Forgotten.

James R. Bihlmeyer

James R. Bihlmeyer | Photo courtesy of John Kinzinger

Private First Class James Roy Bihlmeyer was born on November 12, 1946. James was inducted into the Army in May 1966. He began his tour of duty in the Long An Province of South Vietnam. During action with the enemy on April 15, 1967, James was killed as a result of enemy small-arms fire during a firefight. He was 20 years old.

The following message was left on The Wall-USA by Judy Braun-Prince:


“Thanks! I have always wanted to say thank you for all the fun we had at the school dances. you looked lost and I didn’t want to dance. I took a lot of kidding from my peers to dance with an underclassman. But it was worth it. You were pretty good. I have thought of you all these years and even looked up your name on The Wall in DC. Just to be sure. You never know how a person can impact your life. I wish you had lived to dance again! Judy.”

Alan H. Parks

Alan H. Parks | Photo courtesy of John Kinzinger

Corporal Alan Hugh Parks was born on November 13, 1948. He married Carol Anderson of Portage, MI. Alan entered the Army in August 1969. His daughter, Michelle, was born the day he came home from basic training in December 1969. Alan began his tour in January 1970.

In May 1970, Alan was the driver of an armored personnel carrier which was participating in a search-and-clear operation near the village of Vo Xa. He was fatally injured when his unit came under intense enemy attack by small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades.

According to his brother Lloyd, Alan loved to debate anyone on any issue, and he usually won. In high school, Alan was a member of the undefeated 1965-66 State Champion Debate Team.

Rickie D. Sparks

Rickie D. Sparks | Photo courtesy of John Kinzinger

Sergeant Rickie Delano Sparks was born on July 26, 1947. Rickie married his high school sweetheart before he left for Vietnam. He entered the Army in September 1965. He began his tour of duty in February 1967. Rickie was killed in November 1967 as a result of multiple fragmentation wounds. He was 20 years old.

His good friend Gordon Moore remembers Rickie:

“Rickie was full of life … we would get together in the winter and sled on one shared pair of skis. One year we had a huge ice storm and school was canceled. We thought of a bright idea to hook a rope to the back bumper of a car to see how fast we could go down Sharon Hollow Road, which descends into the lake. Although the car stayed on the road, we flew onto the lake and halfway across it. Fortunately, the lake was still frozen, and, if not for the ice, neither of us would have been around for graduation.”

Dean F. Spaulding

Dean F. Spaulding | Photo courtesy of John Kinzinger

First Lieutenant Dean Francis Spaulding, Jr., was born on December 19, 1946. Dean entered the army in January 1967. He began his tour of duty in the Hau Nghia Province of South Vietnam in October 1968. Dean was killed in December 1968 when he was helping a wounded comrade and stepped on a land mine. He was 21 years old.

Dean’s sister Sandy described him as “a great big brother.” Since they were only 14 months apart in age, they always double-dated. She said, “When I would go without him, he would always remind the guy that I was his kid sister. If someone did something to hurt me, Dean would go after them.” She went on to say, “He was very popular in school. He was great at whatever he did.

Peter L. Valencich

Peter L. Valencich | Photo courtesy of John Kinzinger

Sergeant Peter Lyle Valencich was born on January 1, 1947. He entered the Army in May 1966 and began his tour of duty near Tan Tru, South Vietnam, in December 1966. He was killed in May 1967 when he was helping to clear a mangrove by burning reeds when the fire set off a friendly mine. He was 20 years old.

Brother-in-low Robert Wisner wrote, “Peter was a fun-loving, hard-working and intensely serious young man. When he received orders for Vietnam, he knew he had more than just a job to do. He had a responsibility to family, friends, future generations of loved ones and to his country that must be met. He came from an era when the mark of a man was the ability to carry his emotions … The reality and seriousness of Peter’s assignment and his commitment to it gave him emotional strength far beyond his 20 years of age.”