LEE – Veteran Jim Curtin is proud of his service to America and to his hometown of Tyringham.
A local VFW post is also proud of him – and named him Grand Marshal of its Memorial Day Parade on Monday. The procession descends at 10 a.m. on Main Street.
Curtin, who spent five years in the military, will eventually join Lee VFW Post 893 and serve as its commanding officer from 2013 to 2021. The 82-year-old also spent 44 years with the Tyringham Fire Service , 33 as a leader.
“It’s a really big honor to be asked to be Grand Marshal. I must have done a good job for them and I guess I’m very well respected,” he said. “You are elevated to the rank of commander and it is an honor. The guys trust you in this position.”
Curtin began his military career in 1957, enlisting in the Marine Corps Reserve after graduating from Lee High School. While he was on the reserve for a year, he and a friend had day jobs logging on steep terrain.
“It must have been very painful, then one day we said enough and joined the army,” he said.
It was 1958 when Curtin joined the army and ended up at the artillery school at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. He was deployed for 18 months at a US military installation near Frankfurt, Germany.
He returned to the United States in February 1960 and later that year, in June, married his high school sweetheart, Kathy DiSimone.
A year later, the Army recalled Curtin due to the Berlin Crisis, and he spent two years at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, home of the Green Berets.
“They trained us in guerrilla warfare because I think they were preparing us for Vietnam,” he said. “I missed that whole fight, thank goodness.”
Curtin was released in 1963, becoming a civilian for good. He worked for 15 years at Lee Paper Mills and later as a carpenter, retiring in 2002.
Over the years, Curtin says he’s seen veterans gain more respect and admiration than they did during the Vietnam War.
Curtin hopes organizations like the VFW can continue to stand up for veterans and help Americans thank men and women for their service.
“It’s hard to maintain membership because young people are too busy. This is happening all over the country,” he said, referring to low membership in veterans’ organizations.