Lt. Lewis B. Puller, Jr.
Lost on Patrol
by Joseph Fegan,
Association for Service Disabled Veterans (ASDV)
District Counselor

Former U.S. Marine Lt. Lewis B. Puller Jr., committed suicide 11 May 1994 at his home in Mt. Vernon, VA. His autobiography recounts his experiences as a disabled Vietnam Veteran. He had won the Pulitzer Prize for his book, "Fortunate Son; The Healing of a Vietnam Vet," which he wrote as a tribute to his father.

Lewis B. Puller's survivors include his wife, Toddy, and their two children, Lewis and Margaret. Lewis B. Puller, Jr. was the son of the most highly decorated Marine in U.S. history, General Lewis "Chesty" Puller, who had earned five Navy Crosses.

Lewis, Jr was born in 1945 at Camp Lejune, No. Carolina. As a military brat, he had lived in various military installations until his father's retirement from the Marine Corps in 1955.Upon graduation from the College of William and Mary, he joined the Marines, and received his commission as a second lieutenant.

While leading a combat platoon in Vietnam, Lewis stepped on an enemy landmine in October, 1968. The explosion tore away his legs and parts of both hands. In "Fortunate Son" he detailed his comeback from despair and alcoholism after being hospitalized for two years. He attributed his rehabilitation to the assistance of VA therapists, and that of his wife, Linda Ford "Toddy" Todd.

Against all odds, he survived. He was awarded the Silver Star, two Purple Hearts, the Navy Commendation Medal with valor device, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.

After the war, even though confined permanently to a wheelchair, he resumed his family life. Puller went on to law school. In 1974 he graduated as a lawyer from the College of William and Mary. He was a national service director at the Veterans Administration. In 1978 he made an unsuccessful run for Congress.

In 1992 he was a senior attorney in the Office of the General Counsel at the Department of Defense. At the time of his death Puller was in his second year as a writer-in-residence at George Mason University. He returned to Vietnam last August for the first time since the war, and said he was overwhelmed when he met disabled Vietnamese veterans. He said he sat on a North Vietnam Army soldier's bed, "You know, our stumps are all tangled up. It was incredible." Puller served as a director of the Vietnam Memorial Association, an American non-profit group that promotes reconciliation between the United States and Vietnam.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an insidious affliction. All warriors must be aware that this specter haunts them. It is especially daunting that even a fine, courageous, up-standing man like Lewis B. Puller, Jr., was unable to overcome whatever forces caused him to take his own life. May God forgive him. May Lewis B. Puller, Jr. rest in peace with his father.