Dan Bullock was intent on joining the Marine Corps. He was only 14 and much too young to fight in Vietnam. But the passion of youth often defies possibility, and one finds a way to follow one's inclinations.
To make it appear as though he was 18, Dan carefully changed his birth date on his birth certificate from Dec. 21, 1953, to Dec. 21, 1949. Subsequently Private Bullock reported for duty at the age of 14.
He graduated from boot camp in '68 and went to war shortly thereafter. At 14.
In the Bible's book of Samuel, Saul said to David, “Thou are not able to go against this Philistine, Goliath, to fight with him; for thou art but a youth, and he is a man of war.”
Soon the winds of war consumed Dan Bullock, and he was thrust into the fight as a rifleman in Fox company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.
And David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep.”
Private First Class Dan Bullock was born and raised in North Carolina. He was a latch-key kid and learned to fend for himself. He grew up confident, capable, and was inspired by his Southern Baptist roots to fear no evil.
PFC Bullock believed in the war; he believed that American sovereignty would be decided on Asian shores. He had no hesitation as he readily accepted his role as a rifleman. Without trepidation he would face the hordes of the North Vietnamese.
David said, “Goliath, this day the lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down.... And all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.”
On June 7, 1969, Fox Company was positioned at a forward perimeter in Quang Nam Province. At 2 a.m. an overwhelming force of North Vietnamese Regulars attacked Fox Company with small arms and grenades.
PFC Bullock was in reserve but volunteered to go forward to relieve a buddy who was hurt. Throughout the fight, he delivered badly needed munitions to forward positions.
During the night PFC Bullock was killed by small-arms fire. He was 15 years old. He took the secret of his age to the grave with him. While boys his age were playing baseball and collecting baseball cards, Dan Bullock was fighting and then bleeding out in that Godforsaken Vietnam.
Shortly after Dan's death, a newspaper article was circulated among the Marines of Fox Company. It read, “Marine, 15, Killed in Vietnam; Enlisted at 14, Lying about age.” His buddies had no idea.
Young men fight and die in the wars that old men declare. They bear the sorrow and the pain in the aftermath.
I write this story in the hope that by reading it, you might feel some solidarity with the veterans and the soldiers who didn't make it back. Perhaps on Memorial Day you can give them one backward glace.
Come to the Memorial Day Commemoration on Monday at 9 a.m. in Memorial Park. When you're there, send some thoughts to a kid, to PFC Bullock.
JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a professor of education at Glendale Community College and a former officer in the Marines. He is also chairman of the Memorial Day Commemoration in Memorial Park on Monday. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.