WEST NEWBURY – Rick Thurlow noted it was simply the fact his last name begins with "T" that probably kept him from being shipped to Vietnam during the war.
Instead, he served two years as a military police officer in the Army, working stateside, and has spent more than 40 years in community service – along with his brother, John – to the town of West Newbury.
The Thurlows were honored as Memorial Day parade grand marshals on Monday, riding in a shiny antique convertible and earning the praise of town officials and residents who turned out to commemorate the day.
The parade, expected to be one of the town's largest in honor of West Newbury's bicentennial, snaked from Maple Street down Main to the Training Field and Old Town Hall.
The procession was led by a West Newbury police cruiser and marked by the sporadic boom of muskets from marching units of minutemen and Glover's Marblehead Regiment.
The Pentucket Regional High School marching band and the 215th U.S. Army Band served up lively and patriotic tunes along the route with Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, the West Newbury Garden Club and a host of other units filling out the roster.
Both Thurlow brothers served in the U.S. Army, John as a medic in France, followed by six years in the Army Reserve; Rick served two years as an MP at Fort Huachuca in Arizona.
The Thurlows are the fifth generation of West Newbury residents in their family, which traces its heritage to Aquila Chase of Newbury, who fought in the Revolutionary War.
The Thurlow family continuously owned and operated Cherry Hill Farm on Moulton Street from 1832 to 2000. Both men volunteered on numerous town boards over the years and Rick Thurlow has dug graves in West Newbury for five decades.
Rick Thurlow made brief remarks at a ceremony after the parade on the lawn of GAR Memorial Library, noting that if his last name had been in the first half of the alphabet, it's likely he would have been sent to fight in Southeast Asia.
"I knew some of the people who went to Vietnam, and I know some of the people who went over ... and came home in body bags," he said. "This is what we are remembering today."
State Rep. Lenny Mirra, R-West Newbury, echoed those sentiments, telling the audience "we can all take pride that we live in a state and a country that honors our fallen heroes."
Mirra said citizens have an obligation to "keep all of our promises to our men and women who served," and to remember both the veterans and the families of those who served in the military.
"Thank you for your service and your sacrifices from this grateful nation," Mirra said.
The parade was organized by Town Manager Angus Jennings and director Theresa Woodbury of the Council on Aging. Members of the West Newbury public safety crew and volunteers hosted an open house and cookout at the Public Safety Complex after the formal ceremonies.
Richard K. Lodge is editor of The Daily News. Follow him on Twitter @RichardLodge_DN.