By; Brian Genest – June, 2019
A new chapter in Dracut history can be added to the books. For the first time, the Dracut Republican Town Committee (DRTC) marched in the town’s Memorial Day parade this year. Spoiler alert, brought to you by the First Amendment: it won’t be the last.
Let’s face it… The town’s about-face, overriding the illegal ban by the town manager, helped put a face on a group of patriotic citizens who simply wanted to honor our fallen veterans, like everyone else in the town parade.
Twenty-two members, associates and friends of the DRTC carried American flags and marched respectfully behind a vehicle with our organization’s banner. We decided to join the parade this year in tribute to former President George H.W. Bush and John McCain, two great veterans America has lost since the last parade. Our participants ranged in age from 7 to 86. We’re veterans, laborers, professionals, farmers, union leaders and retirees from The Silent Generation to Generation Z. Supporters of our veterans—and freedom of speech to honor them—joined the DRTC from across town and from towns across the region, including Lowell, Andover and live-free-or-die New Hampshire.
Speaking of which, did you see and hear the crowd along the parade route?
“Look, it’s Sheila!” a waving woman in the crowd shouted as the DRTC’s patriotically-decorated pickup truck (American-made, of course) turned onto Pleasant Street at the beginning of the parade. It was a scene that was repeated over and over again along the 1.8-mile route as town citizens recognized Sheila Richardson.
Sheila is the founder of the DRTC, a former selectman and former Republican state committeewoman. She was riding shotgun, with DRTC Treasurer Chris Murphy behind the wheel. There couldn’t have been a more appropriate pilot and co-pilot combination for the occasion.
Sheila is a well-known and respected member of a storied family that’s well known for being in town since arriving on the first ship after the Mayflower, as the story goes. On a personal note, she’s also a wonderful woman, a family friend for decades and one of my mentors.
You’ll never meet a woman who has worked as long or as hard to support her candidates, causes and country as Sheila Richardson.
Chris Murphy, like many town citizens, moved his family to Dracut nearly 15 years ago. Like many, Chris and his family are heavily involved in our community as business owners, public school students, volunteers and through a range of other activities. Unlike many, Chris is a true patriot who puts his country and our people first.
Chris is a proud member of the Patriot Guard Riders, a Three Percenter and actively involved in many other organizations designed to preserve American rights, values and traditions. Whether it’s holding fundraisers to help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder or women with breast cancer, no one I know does more to help other people than Chris Murphy.
Last, but certainly not least, there was 12-year-old William. He marched with his grandfather, DRTC member Jeffrey Thurston, an Army veteran. With a smile as wide as Lakeview Avenue, this young man in a suit jacket and tie handed out most of the 500 hundred pocket Constitutions provided to parade-goers by the DRTC to honor veterans who gave the ultimate sacrifice defending our freedoms. Sheila Richardson, Chris Murphy and all of us can be sure that our Republic will endure, thanks to young Americans and future leaders like William.
To everyone who marched with us and to the thousands of our fellow citizens who enthusiastically cheered the DRTC’s efforts to support our veterans, whether you were our neighbors or strangers we’ve never met: thank you. Together, we made town history and our Founding Fathers, the nation’s first veterans, would be proud of our townspeople. May God bless you, our veterans and the United States of America.
See you next year.
Brian Genest is chairman of the Dracut Republican Town Committee and a member of the Massachusetts Republican State Committee representing the Second Essex & Middlesex District of Andover, Dracut, Lawrence and Tewksbury. ◊