PORTLAND — The last remaining original member of the Oregon Air National Guard has passed away.

Fred Parish, who would have celebrated his 99th birthday in September, died Sunday in La Grande.

Parish enlisted into the newly formed 123rd Observation Squadron in April 1941, along with 117 other Oregonians, to form Oregon’s first military aviation unit. The 123rd Observation Squadron later became the 123rd Fighter Squadron, which now operates Portland’s F-15 Eagle fighter jets.

“The Oregon Air National Guard has been an integral part of the nation's air defense since 1941, and Fred was at the cutting edge of that success,” said Brig. Gen. Donna Prigmore, commander, Oregon Air National Guard. “He was a brave and motivated man who helped pave the way for our future, and for that, we will always be grateful.”

During World War II, Parish served in Oregon and Washington before deploying to the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater as a medic. He was in the military until 1945 when he separated at the rank of technical sergeant after the war had ended.

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