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Former Lee VFW commander named grand marshal of Lee Memorial Day parade

Army veteran Jim Curtin of Tyringham

Former Lee VFW Post 893 commander Jim Curtin is the grand marshal for Lee's Memorial Day parade Monday.

LEE — Veteran Jim Curtin is proud of his service to America and to his hometown of Tyringham.

A local VFW post is proud of him too — and named him grand marshal of its Memorial Day parade Monday. The procession steps off at 10 a.m. down Main Street.

Curtin, who spent five years in the military, would eventually join the Lee VFW Post 893 and serve as its commander from 2013 to 2021. The 82-year-old also spent 44 years with the Tyringham Fire Department, 33 as its chief.

"It's a very top honor to be asked to be grand marshal.  I must have done a good job for them and I guess I'm well respected," he said. "You get elevated to commander and it's an honor. The guys trust you in that position."

Curtin began his military career in 1957, enlisting in the Marine Corps Reserve after graduating from Lee High School. While he spent a year in the Reserve he and a friend had day jobs doing logging on steep terrain.

"It got to be real strenuous stuff, then one day we said enough and enlisted in the Army," he said.

It was 1958 when Curtin joined the Army, ending up in artillery school at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. He was deployed for 18 months to a U.S. military installation near Frankfurt, Germany.

He returned to the states in February 1960 and later that year, in June, married his high school sweetheart, Kathy DiSimone.

A year later, the Army recalled Curtin because of the Berlin crisis and he spent two years at Fort Bragg, in North Carolina, home of the Green Berets.

"They trained us in guerilla warfare, because I think they were preparing us for Vietnam," he said. "I missed all that combat, thank God."

Curtin was discharged in 1963, becoming a civilian for good. He worked for 15 years in the Lee paper mills and later as a carpenter, retiring in 2002.

Over the years, Curtin says he has seen veterans get more respect and admiration than they did during the Vietnam War.

"Between the Vietnam era and now, we're treated better. Back then, veterans were treated like crap," he said.

Curtin hopes organizations like the VFW can continue to advocate for veterans and help Americans thank the men and women for their service.

"It's tough to keep membership up, because young fellas are too busy. This is happening all over the country," he said, referring to low participation in veterans' organizations.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com.

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