"Like Father, Like Son"

A Tribute to Lewis B. Puller Jr.

By Helmuts Feifs

I don't know what he saw as he looked out into the room. Did he see the Officers of the Second Marine Division, their attention already starting to blur from one too many drinks. Did he see what he was or what he had been? Waiting for him to speak. And what did we see?

I had been at HQMC the week that the message regarding Puller's wounding came screaming in. I remember reading it later, hoping that he would die. The injuries were so bad you just wondered what was left to live with and for. But he lived.

Puller pulled himself up to the lecturn with a smooth practiced ease. You didn't notice the fingers; the lecturn hid the missing lower body. And then he began to speak. That he was there at all was a miracle itself . For a service that called itself a "band of brothers," only mostly unblemished ones were allowed to stay in the family. His father's heart was his ticket out.

All the General Officers within limo ride of HQMC, it seems, had gone to tell the old man that his son was wounded.... bad. I didn't envy them. Mere mortals telling the God of War that one of his was not coming back wrapped in glory. Wrapped perhaps!

Did he scream? Did he cry? Did he turn away? Did he wonder that, had he been in charge, would it have happened? Did he think it was payback for all those other sons? I kept hoping he would die. But he lived.

In measured, even tones Puller began to talk. He didn't talk about his wounds; by now everyone knew about them. He didn't talk about a national healing or binding up the wounds of the fallen, and he didn't talk about the pain he must have endured that clung to him like an aura. He talked about what it meant to be an Officer of Marines.

He talked about the iron law of duty that Marine officers always took care of their men first. Always. You knew that he believed it, and you knew that he had paid the price and would have again. I never got the sense talking to him later that night that he begrudged any officer in that room. But you also noticed that not many made the trip accross the room to talk with him. It was too bad, really. The trip was worthwhile.

His recent death was not an answer to an earlier prayer. He is with his father now. Both can spend endless centuries discovering why steel runs in some families and how father and son were really more alike than they both ever knew.

copyright © 1995 by Helmuts Fiefs, all rights reserved