On Tuesday, May 11, 2021, Mr. W. Hays Parks, went to Our Lord after suffering a stroke. He was born in Jacksonville, Florida. He graduated from Lee High School in Jacksonville, as well as Baylor University and Baylor Law. He was 80 years old.
Mr. Parks entered federal service in 1963 as a commissioned officer in the Marine Corps. His initial service was as a reconnaissance battalion platoon leader. He served in the Republic of Vietnam (1968-1969) as an infantry officer and senior prosecuting attorney. He served as the first Marine Corps Representative at The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School, U.S. Army; as a congressional liaison officer for the Secretary of the Navy; and as Chief, Law of War Branch, Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Navy.
After leaving active duty, Mr. Parks remained in the Marine Corps reserves attaining the rank of Colonel. He was instrumental in the development of a law of War Program to assist the training of Marine commanders and their staffs, as well as judge advocates. During his military service, including his reserve career, he earned Navy-Marine Corps, Canadian, and British Parachutist wings, U.S. Army Master Parachutist wings, and 82nd Airborne Centurion wings.
In his civilian capacity, Mr. Parks served as the Special Assistant to the Judge Advocate General of the Army for Law of War Matters from 1979 to 2003. He was a legal advisor for the 1986 air strike against terrorist-related targets in Libya and had primary responsibility for the investigation of Iraqi war crimes during its 1990-1991 occupation of Kuwait. He served as a legal adviser for U. S. Special Operations Forces from 1979 until his retirement. He served as a U.S. delegate for law of war negotiations in New York, Geneva, The Hague, and Vienna. He was instrumental in the negotiation of several important treaties, such as the Blinding Laser Protocol. In August 2003, Mr. Parks joined the International Affairs Division, Office of the General Counsel, Department of Defense. He chaired the Department’s Law of War Working Group from 2003 until his retirement in October 2010.
Mr. Parks occupied the Charles H. Stockton Chair of International Law at the Naval War College for the academic year 1984-1985. In 1987, he was a staff member on the Presidential Commission established to examine alleged security breaches in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Mr. Parks also testified as an expert witness in cases against terrorists both in the United States and Canada.
Mr. Parks lectured at the National, Army, Air Force, and Naval War Colleges; the military staff colleges; other military schools; and at U.S. and foreign military units. In 2001, he became the sixth person in the history of U.S. Special Operations Command to receive that command’s top civilian award, the U.S. Special Operations Command Outstanding Civilian Service Medal. In 2006, he was awarded the U.S. Special Operations Command’s Major General William F. Garrison Award for a career of service to Special Operations Forces.
In 2016, Mr. Parks was awarded the NDIA Small Arms Group’s Gunnery Sgt Carlos N. Hathcock Award, which recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions in operational employment and tactics of small arms weapon systems that have impacted the readiness and capabilities of the U.S. military. Mr. Parks also advocated for the use of ammunition by the military that was more accurate, reliable, and hence more effective, such as “Open Tip Match” ammunition. Approval of this type of ammunition resulted in more effective fire and thereby saved American lives. Mr. Parks did more than answer paper request. He encouraged innovation, provided careful guidance to those responsible for developing ammunition to ensure compliance with our treaty and policy obligations.
Mr. Parks was a “watchdog” against challenges to existing military small arms ammunition, such as the 1999-2000 challenge by certain organizations in the international community of the Raufoss 12.7mm Multipurpose Projectile, which he successfully defeated. Hays Parks was a man of profound courage. There are countless U.S. service members alive today because Mr. Parks put more accurate, reliable, and effective ammunition into their hands and the hands of their fellow warfighters.
The Department of Defense, Marine Corps, and the nation lost a valuable member of the team. Hay Parks was a man of action, of learning and of justice. He leaves behind his wife of 45 years, Maria Lopez-Otin, and his beloved cats. See also his obituary here
Updated on: June 6, 2021
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