Since 1993, he has been actively involved in various Habitat projects that include taking a church youth group to Mexico as well as assisting with the Jimmy Carter “Blitz Build” where 30 homes were built in five days at Eagle Butte, SD. He’s also held several leadership positions including helping to develop the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate.
When the opportunity arose to venture halfway around the globe for a build, Parsley didn’t hesitate. He and 29 others, mostly Vietnam War-era veterans, traveled to the village of Binh Ninh, Vietnam, to construct three homes for partnering families through the Vietnam Veterans Build program. From 1970 to 1973, Parsley served in the U.S. Navy (Aviation Fuels) aboard the USS John F. Kennedy Aircraft Carrier.
The 280-square foot homes, which included concrete pillars, brick walls and metal roofs, were designed with ventilation as an essential component to mitigate the tropical weather.
With temperatures soaring to 120 degrees F, Parsley says the heat, coupled with the lack of power equipment, made for physically challenging days. Parsley and crew transported all materials to the job site a quarter mile into the jungle on a narrow path. “At the road were 8,000 bricks, two truckloads of sand and a truckload of rock. We used two wheelbarrows to move all of this.”
Parsley says the most rewarding aspect of the experience occurred when the keys were turned over to the homeowners, the Tran Van Phuong family. With the average annual Vietnamese household income of $1,000, Habitat workers also saw the need to put finishing touches on the home, so collected enough money and presented it to the families.
Likely attributed to the country’s cultural norms, Tran’s wife, who worked at the job site every day, had very little interaction with the workers throughout the build. However, with tears of joy and appreciation after the closing ceremony on the final day, she hugged every worker.
“That’s why I do Habitat,” Parsley says. “If you haven’t been to a Habitat closing to see the new homeowner’s reaction, it’s one of the most emotional experiences you’ll have.”
Updated: May 11, 9:37 a.m.