Turner to remember Vietnam casualty

TURNER — Phillip Bryant, a Navy medic who gave his life 43 years ago on the other side of the world will be honored Sunday in his hometown of Turner.

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Mary Richardson and Michael Chavez of the Turner Sons of American Legion Unit 111 hold pictures of Phillip Bryant, a Navy Hospital corpsman killed in action May 29, 1968, in Vietnam.

submitted photo

Phillip Bryant graduated from the Leavitt Institute.


"He deserves to be remembered," said Michael Chavez, who leads the local Sons of the American Legion squadron. "He was the only soldier from Turner who was killed in action in Vietnam."

On Sunday, a procession of 200 people will walk from the Town Office on Route 117 to a bluff overlooking the Nezinscot River. There, a stone honoring Bryant will be unveiled. A member of Congress, Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Maine, is scheduled to speak. So are Bryant's brothers, Marshall and Dale.

If only it had happened sooner, Chavez said.

Phillip's sister, Judith, died of cancer several years ago. His mother, Wilma, died in 2009. And his father, Sherwood, died last month.

"He was trying to hang on," Marshall said. "He knew it was going to happen."

At least, people will now learn of Phillip's sacrifice, he said.

"He was a Class A guy," said Marshall, who was seven years younger than Phillip. "He had a Class A character."

Pictures reveal a handsome, blond young man. 

Mary Richardson, who graduated a year ahead of Phillip at the Leavitt Institute, described him as "a very quiet, nice-looking boy." He graduated in 1964.

He surprised no one when he entered the U.S. Navy, she said.

By 1967, as the Vietnam War continued to escalate, Phillip was sent in with a Marine unit as a medical corpsman, dodging enemy fire as he gave battlefield first aid.

He endured the long, bloody Battle of Khe Sanh in Quang Tri Province.

"I know he saved a lot of lives," said Marshall, who was 15 in the spring of 1968.

Like the country, Marshall was horrified by the war news on TV. But he had fears of his own. He worried that the phone would ring with bad news.

"I learned to hate the telephone with a passion," he said.

However, that's not how he learned of his brother's death. He was outside his home when an official-looking government sedan pulled up. A man inside asked for "Sherwood Bryant." Marshall ran.

"I knew right then," he said.

All these years later, his family is honored by the monument to his brother.

"I get choked up just thinking about it," Marshall said.

The town honored Phillip last year, when it dedicated the riverside bluff near the corner of Main Street and Schoolhouse Hill Road in his name.

More seemed needed, said Dennis Richardson, a town selectman, Mary's son and the chaplain of the Turner Sons of the American Legion.

Amid the mistreatment faced by so many returning veterans of Vietnam, sacrifices were not honored, he said.

The two Legion groups — the sons and the auxiliary — raised the money to buy the monument. Collette Monuments helped with an in-kind donation of its work.

The groups picked Sunday to unveil and dedicate the stone because the town is marking its 225th anniversary this weekend with events that will include fireworks.

Plans call for the procession to begin at 2 p.m. and the dedication to last about an hour.

The two legion groups hope more monuments will follow to highlight the efforts of more local men and women.

On Wednesday, Marshall said he was grateful that his brother will be introduced to a new generation of Turner residents.

When the groups began planning for the monument, they asked him and Dale if they had a request for the stone.

Marshall had one inscription in mind: "Never to be forgotten."


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RONALD RIML's picture

Credit where credit is due

I've heard and read the poem "Corpsman Up" but really didn't know its source.

It is Copyright © 2000 by Bud “Doc” Paine, All Rights Reserved

Here is a good site for Navy Corpsman - http://www.docslocker.com/

David  Cote's picture

Thank you Ronnie

"Corpsman Up." What a moving tribute. I'm not ashamed to admit my eyes welled up reading it. Hell, I'd question my own heart and soul if I hadn't. I've always given faithfully to the Wounded Veterans of America but I never fail to thank a person in uniform any chance I have, including my step-daughter who is a platoon sargent at Fort Hood and has three tours in Iraq in her rearview mirror. I wish I had the chance to thank Mr. Bryant. However I want to thank you, Ron for not only posting this tribute, but also for your dedication, time and sacrifice that you gave of yourself. Thank you, sir.

Martha Burnell's picture

Thank you

David, as a military mom, I thank not only your step-daughter, but you also. You, your family and her friends for faithfully standing behind her as she serves. I know how very important it is for the service personnel to know there is love and support for them in their time of danger.

RONALD RIML's picture

Fair Winds and Following Seas, Doc

"Corpsman Up!

The blood is flowing
The bullets are flying all around
But a man lay gravely wounded
Can’t you hear his mournful sound?

Corpsman up!

He’s out of his hole and crawling
Mortars are falling all around
But a man lay gravely wounded
Can’t you hear his mournful sound?

Corpsman up!

The cordite and smoke is sickening
Fifty yards…so…yet so far
But a man lay gravely wounded
Can’t you hear his mournful sound?

Corpsman up!

Now you can almost touch him
But lie there is all he does
But a man lay gravely wounded
Why can’t I hear his mournful sound?

Corpsman up!
Now, at last, you reach him
A faint breath is all that you see
Yes, the man lay gravely wounded
Just a gurgle, no mournful sound

Corpsman up!

My leg, what’s causing that burning?
Grab a hold and drag him to me
Yes the man is gravely wounded
Stop the death rattle sound

Corpsman up!

Cover the hole and start dragging him back now
I can hear the covering fire
Yes, the man is gravely wounded
I don’t hear the death rattle sound

Corpsman up!

Only twenty yards to go now
Then I know we’ll be doing OK
Yes, the man is gravely wounded
Battle is now the only sound

Corpsman up!

Now, get the IV’s in him
Some morphine for his pain
Yes, the man is gravely wounded
A chopper is the only sound

Corpsman up!

“Doc, lay back down on that stretcher…
Yea, you’re guy is doing al right”
But you both are gravely wounded
That was the last sound

Corpsman up!

Bob Deschenes's picture

Rmembrance of Phillip Bryant

I spent twenty months in Viet Nam as a Ranger. Yes medics are life savers. Although your son is gone. He is still with you. All of the buddies that died in Viet Nam are still here everyday. Your son is gone but he still lives in the memories of those who were there.


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