Panel 23W – Row 96-PFC Dan Bullock
… by Joe Tarnovsky
At 14 years of age, most young boys are looking forward to starting high school, thinking about their school’s football and basketball games and of course, girls! For one young man, Dan Bullock, at 14 years of age, he transformed his birth certificate to show his birth year as 1949 instead of 1953. With the Marine Corps Recruiting Center his destination, unbeknownst to him, Dan Bullock would make history.
On September 18, 1968, with his altered birth certificate showing his date of birth as December 21, 1949 instead of his actual birth year, 1953, Dan Bullock enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. His physical stature did not betray his young age to the Marine Recruiter, and after signing his enlistment papers, 14-year-old Dan Bullock was sent to Parris Island, South Carolina to begin Boot Camp.
FRANKLIN McARTHUR, JR., ONE RECRUIT HELPING ANOTHER BECOME UNITED STATES MARINES
Many veterans would agree, and I am one of them, that Marine Corps Boot Camp is the most strenuous of all the military services initial training. Dan Bullock at 14 years of age had made it past the Marine Corps recruiters portraying himself as 18 years old, but Parris Island was taking a toll on his immature physical size. Fortunately, for this patriotic young man who wanted to be a United States Marine, he met another recruit, Franklin McArthur, Jr., and Franklin took young Dan under his wing. McArthur, 19 at the time, got a group of other recruits together, and they made sure young Dan made it through Marine Corps Boot Camp. When Dan Bullock would fall back, Franklin McArthur, Jr. and the other men would pick up the slack and make sure Dan would finish whatever training task they were attempting to complete. On December 10th, 1968, Dan Bullock, Franklin McArthur, Jr. and the other men in their Marine Corps Boot Camp unit became one of the few, one of the proud, United States Marines!
BOND OF MARINE BROTHERHOOD CONTINUES IN VIETNAM WITH
LANCE CORPORAL STEVE PISCITELLI
At a time when many young men were looking for ways to avoid military service and especially having to risk their lives in South Vietnam, United States Marine Dan Bullock was now in the war zone. Bullock kept mostly to himself and kept his age a secret but became friends with Lance Corporal Steve Piscitelli. Piscitelli became a surrogate “big brother” to the 15-year-old Marine at An Hoa Combat Base, South Vietnam. It was a 13-month tour of duty for the Marines when they arrived to help the South Vietnamese defend their freedom, one month longer than their Army counterparts. PFC Dan Bullock was a newbie on May 18, 1969 when he got to F Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines. The older Marine, Steve Piscitelli, said the other Marines either wanted to protect and help the underage Bullock, and some Marines tried to intimidate him. PFC Dan Bullock found a true Marine Brother in Lance Corporal Steve Piscitelli, and the two would sometimes engage in playful physical sparring during their off-duty hours. Unbeknownst to both at the time, one of their friendly sparring sessions to relieve the stress and the daily grind of war would have deadly consequences.
JUNE 6, 1969, PFC DAN BULLOCK’S LAST FULL DAY AS A U.S. MARINE
During one of their friendly sparring matches, Lance Corporal Steve Piscitelli hurt the thumb on one of his hands. I’ve read some stories saying he dislocated it, other articles he broke it, but either way, he was unable to operate his weapon with speed and ease that night with this injury. Without being able to handle his firearm properly, Lance Corporal Piscitelli could not perform his assigned perimeter guard duty for this night, so he was left to guard the tanks. His young friend, PFC Dan Bullock, and others of the unit headed to the bunkers on the perimeter to perform guard duty protecting the base. PFC Bullock was supposed to be performing cleaning tasks but then was reassigned to perimeter guard when his buddy, Lance Corporal Steve Piscitelli injured his thumb.
JUNE 7, 1969, THE ENEMY ATTACKS
According to Lance Corporal Steve Piscitelli, who was guarding the tanks at An Hoa, just after midnight while PFC Dan Bullock was on perimeter sentry duty with his fellow Marines the base came under attack. Piscitelli could hear the sounds of battle that were taking place over a mile away from his position. Those far away sounds were nothing compared to the shouts of men as their adrenaline pumped voices filled the airwaves of the radio over the never ending gunfire between his Marine brothers and the enemy that were attacking.
Steve Piscitelli found out the next morning the price his brothers paid to defend the base during the firefight when only 20 of the Marines out of 45 returned to the company area when the sun rose. One of those brave Marines that did not return the next morning was PFC Dan Bullock, just 15 years old, his age still unknown to most of his fellow Marines.
His Company Commander, Captain Robert Kingrey, wrote a letter to Bullock’s family in Brooklyn, New York to offer his condolences on the loss of their son. He told them how the enemy had attacked their brother’s position just after 1:00 am on June 7, 1969. Captain Kingrey explained to Dan’s family how this young Marine realized the enemy was stronger than usual, and he and the other Marines would need more ammunition to hold off the attackers. PFC Dan Bullock knew the Marines on the perimeter were running low on ammunition, and Dan exposed himself to enemy fire to keep his unit supplied with ammo. During one of Dan’s perilous sprints, according to Captain Kingrey’s letter to the Bullock family, to secure more ammunition, PFC Bullock was mortally wounded by enemy fire. Around 1:50 a.m. on June 7, 1969, the youngest man to die in the Vietnam War, 15-year-old PFC Dan Bullock, gave his life for his fellow Marines and his country.
PFC DAN BULLOCK FOUNDATION
Franklin McArthur, Jr., Dan Bullock’s Marine buddy from basic training, has established the PFC Dan Bullock Foundation, which is to gather funds to build and erect a monument to this brave, young Marine. McArthur wants to place a statue at the Brooklyn, New York recruiting center where both he and Bullock enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. Steve Piscitelli, Dan Bullock’s Marine buddy in Vietnam, has signed on to help McArthur achieve his goal to help this Marine they both knew. Steve Piscitelli, a sculptor, who served with Bullock in Vietnam, has designed a statue of PFC Dan Bullock holding an M16 rifle and in the ready position to toss a hand grenade. Piscitelli, the recipient of two Purple Hearts for his honorable service to his country in Vietnam, became an artist and sculptor as a way to deal with Post-Traumatic Stress from combat in the war zone.
It was also Franklin McArthur, Jr. who organized a caravan from Brooklyn, NY to Goldsboro, North Carolina in 2000 to dedicate Bullock’s headstone. This patriotic United States Marine, laid to rest since 1969, had no marker. It was when another Marine brought it to the attention of his former boss, talk show host, Sally Jessy Raphael, and Ms. Raphael stepped up and donated the funds to purchase a headstone for the youngest combatant to be killed in Vietnam.
REMEMBERING UNITED STATES MARINE, PFC DAN BULLOCK
Besides Franklin McArthur, Jr. and Steve Piscitelli, fellow United States Marines that served with PFC Dan Bullock during his time in the Marine Corps, some grateful Americans have not forgotten Dan Bullock either. The street where the youngest American to die in Vietnam once lived in Brooklyn is now officially called PFC Dan Bullock Way. Citizens of Dan Bullock’s old neighborhood honored the 15-year-old Marine in 2003 by the name change of their street. There is also a photoengraving of PFC Dan Bullock on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the Manhatten Financial District in New York City. How ironic, a young 15-year-old American lies about his age and gives up all of his tomorrow’s for our todays in Vietnam.
A photo-engraving of this brave American on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in New York City stands juxtaposed next to the Manhattan Financial District, a den of greed and selfishness. Here’s hoping the statue of PFC Dan Bullock will eventually be sculptured and placed next to the Brooklyn, New York recruiting station.
Joe is a Vietnam Combat Veteran, having served 26 months in the Republic Of South Vietnam, 10 months with Company A, 27th Combat Engineers, 28 August 1968 to June 1969, and 16 months as a crewchief/doorgunner with the 240th Assault Helicopter company on UH-1C Hueys, the Mad Dog Gunship Platoon from July 1969 to 22 October 1970.
Joe graduated from Cuyahoga Community College in 1982 with a Associate Of Arts Degree and from Cleveland State University in 1986 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology; he also accumulated 12 hours of graduate work at Cleveland State. He lives with his best friend, his wife, and they have 34 rescued cats, 7 rescued dogs.
Joe has spoken at high schools and colleges for 25 years about PTSD, war and how not to treat returning veterans when they come home to America after fighting for their country.