Neil R. Sparks, Jr
Class of 1954
After graduation from Will Rogers, Neil Sparks attended Oklahoma State University and was commissioned as an officer in the United States Navy in 1959. Following naval flight training, he became a helicopter pilot. In his more than 28-year career, he was deployed ten times on various aircraft carriers, four times to Vietnam waters, flying combat search-and-rescue and support missions. During a fifth deployment in Vietnam, he flew in-country Navy Attack Helicopters, in support of Navy SEALs and River Forces.
In July 1967 Neil and his crew flew more than 200 miles into North Vietnam, over heavily fortified hostile territory, to rescue a downed Navy fighter pilot. Under intense enemy ground fire, his helicopter was severely damaged. Nonetheless, after 20 minutes in a hover, he miraculously completed a successful rescue.
For displaying unprecedented valor and extraordinary heroism in combat, he was awarded the Navy Cross, the highest award in the naval service, and second only to the Medal of Honor. Neil completed his education at the Naval Post Graduate School, commanded a helicopter squadron in Florida, and was the operations officer of an amphibious assault ship. Neil’s final duty was as the Navy member of the Marine Amphibious Warfare Presentation Team that lectured in 33 countries.
Neil was honored as the most decorated member in the 50-year history of Helicopter Squadron Two with 31 medals and ribbons.
Neil and Kay Stover, also from Tulsa, were married in 1960 and had a son and daughter.