Life after wartime: Veterans Day grand marshal recounts service, homecoming

Oct 23, 2013

Jim Bruce, the grand marshal of this year's Veterans Day parade, is determined to get his fellow Vets out there marching with him on November 11.

"I was flattered, humbled, and proud to be able to" serve as grand marshal, Bruce said during an interview at his business, E.L. Morse Lumber.

Bruce served as a Navy Corpsman attached the the First Battalion and Fifth Marine Regiment out of Camp Lejeune North Carolina.

"First and foremost, I joined the Navy and attached myself to the Marines," Bruce explained. "It was a career decision."

"I thought I might want to practice medicine so I got into my medical training" while with the Marines, and served as a corpsman -- which is synonymous with a medic -- in Vietnam for six months before a bullet to the leg broke his femur and sent him home.

"Crazy thing for me to do at the time," Bruce said of joining the Marines. While many were drafted, Bruce signed up to go overseas to serve in a war that had divided the country he was serving.

Reintegrating into civilian life can be a beast of a challenge, but Bruce says he got right back to business when he returned home.

"I simply came home ... and went right back to college, and went back to work," he says. "I put it behind me. ... I had things to do."

Bruce marched in the Veterans Day parade for the first time in 2011, 43 years after he'd served.

"Two years ago, my wife said to me, 'I think you should march in the parade,'" Bruce said of his wife, Mary. "and I did it, and it was very gratifying."

Bruce says that as he marched for the first time in 2011, veterans he had tried unsuccessfully to coax into joining him left the sidewalk and joined the parade.

"They can be proud within, but not outwardly, and I think that may be what deters people" from marching Bruce said.

"It doesn't make any difference who they served with, when they served, where they served," Bruce said in encouraging people to get involved with this year's parade. "If you put a uniform on for the United States of America, you're a veteran."

Wareham's Veterans Day celebration will be held on Monday, November 11.  A parade will form at approximately 10 a.m. in the Merchants Way and Besse Park areas in downtown Wareham. Veterans interested in marching may just show up. A ceremony will be held after the parade at Town Hall.