By Bill McBride
I knew him, although I never met him.
I knew him through the Brotherhood. I knew him the way Marines "know" every other Marine.
I heard the explosion from the booby trap that ripped off his limbs, although at the time I was 11,000 miles away from Viem Dong.
It was the same explosion that had killed Lance Corporals John Nahan, John Wolpe, and Doc McGrath a year earlier in the A Shau Valley of Vietnam. I still hear that explosion, every once in a while--muffled and subdued.
I heard it again last week.
I vaguely remember when the news of Lew's serious wounding circulated the halls of the Fleet Marine Force Headquarters at Norfolk, Virgina, where I was stationed at the time. The news wasn't a surprise--it was almost expected in a strange sort of way.
I also knew Lew from my drives past the Puller family home in Saluda, Virgina. I made those trips frequently when I was courting Penny, now my wife. I remember those short, but compelling detours by the tree-covered cemetery where his famous father, "Chesty" Puller, lies. They began in the summer of 1968 and have been repeated countless times over the intervening years.
I knew Lew from his interest in the Vietnamese kids he wanted to build new schools for. Many of my fading photographs and fading memories have Vietnamese kids in them.
Penny gave me Lew's book "Fortunate Son" for Christmas a couple of years ago. There is a piece of paper marking Page 23--the farthest I could read. I knew Lew from those first 23 pages.
I will always remember Lew...and John...and Jack...and Doc...and Terry...and Millimacky...and.....
Semper Fi, warriors. Those of us that knew and served with you are the "Fortunate Sons."