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.
"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."