Thomas Richard Okerlund

Chief Warrant Officer
Army of the United States
05 August 1948 - 06 November 1978
Seattle, WA
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Thomas R Okerlund

Army Aviator

Air Medal, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Thomas Richard Okerlund

27 Jul 2003

Thomas Richard Okerlund

"Tommy Dick" was a native son of Skykomish, WA. He started ski racing at the age of six at Stevens Pass, WA, with the Stevens Pass Yellow Jackets. Cathy and Judy Nagel were his team mates and Jack Nagel was his coach. He excelled at ski racing and followed his ski family to Enumclaw when Crystal Mountain opened and they launched the Crystal Mountain Athletic Club. Tommy Dick raced throughout the northwest and soon became a national ranked competitor skiing for the Crystal Mountain Athletic Club and the University of Washington. He later returned to Crystal Mountain to coach for CMAC.

Tom graduated from Enumclaw High School where he was known for his unflappable good spirits and his gold Chevrolet convertible with the unmistakable aroma of mildew caused by a large hole in the floor under the driver's seat. It did not matter to Tom, he loved it.

Around the time he graduated from High School he was introduced to airplanes. Flying became his passion and he spent all his time and resources pursuing it. He finally accumulated enough hours to fly for the Army Reserve. When he went to Vietnam he flew Huey helicopters over Qui Nhon until he was reported missing in action. When Tom's personal effects arrived home his family was suprised to find commendations for bravery among them.

We still miss you, "Tommy Dick".

Tommy's Home
by Anthony Woods, 1972

What a dream I had. Tommy's home.
Came back with the prisoners.
The happiest day of my life.
We walked in the mountains
And spoke of days gone by. Snow capped
Mountains, blooming flowers, and Tommy's home.

But all things must pass.
I opened my eyes and looked
Into the dark corners of my room.
Just a dream. I felt hollow.
There was a great pain in my chest.
Just a dream.

Tears well in my eyes. Feeling lost
And in despair I bury my head in my pillow.
For the first time I fully realize what a
large piece of my life left with Tommy.

I don't know which way to turn.

A Note from The Virtual Wall

At about 0900 03 Jan 1971 a U-6A BEAVER (serial #52-25884) departed Qui Nhon on an administrative support flight to Ban Me Thuot, South Vietnam, carrying crewmen from the 61st AHC to collect replacement helicopters for the company. The helicopter crewmen would then fly the helicopters back to Qui Nhon.

At 1120 hours, with the U-6 about 14 miles southeast of Phu Cat, radio and radar contact with the plane was lost. Because the pilot, Captain F. A. Rhodes, had announced plans to remain overnight at Ban Me Thuot, no immediate search was made. When search efforts were begun on 5 January, no trace of the aircraft or its seven occupants could be found. Formal search efforts ended on 9 January 1971.

Seven men were aboard the U-6:

  • MAJ Ferris A. Rhodes, Greenwood, SC, pilot, HHC, 223rd Avn Bn (08/14/1978)

  • 61st AHC crewmen (passengers)
    • CPT Michael D. Parsons, Reno, NV (04/03/1975)
    • CWO Luis G. Holguin, Oxnard, CA (10/30/1978)
    • CWO Thomas R. Okerlund, Seattle, WA (11/06/1978)
    • CWO Dennis W. O'Melia, Smithfield, NC (08/22/1978)
    • SP6 Patrick J. Magee, Alder, MT (04/07/1976)
    • SP6 Carl A. Palen, Dubuque, IA (08/22/1978)

All seven men were placed in MIA status. As time progressed, the Secretary of the Army approved Presumptive Findings of Death for them (on the dates in parentheses) and their status was changed to "Died while Missing". Their remains have not been repatriated.

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Channing Prothro, former CAP Marine
Last updated 08/10/2009