Area's 'fortunate son' dies

From the Rappahannock Record, Kilmarnock Virgina, Thursday, May 19, 1994.

The Rappahannock Record is the local paper that serves Saluda, Virginia, the boyhood home of Lewis Jr.

Lewis B. Puller Jr., a war veteran, author, attorney, and graduate of Christchurch School in Middlesex County, died Wednesday, May 11, of an apparent suicide.

Puller, 48, was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery on Monday with full military honors.

Puller's autobiography, Fortunate Son: The Healing of a Vietnam Vet, won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for autobiography. The book graphically chronicled his struggle to first overcome crippling injuries he received in 1968 during his tour of duty in Vietnam and later alcoholism.

A few months after arriving in Vietnam as a Marine infantry commander, Puller lost both legs, part of his left hand, and a thumb and forefinger on his right hand.

Puller wrote,

"If I could now summon the courage to forgive my government, to forgive those whose views and actions concerning the war differed from mine, and to forgive myself, I could perhaps move into the present, attain a degree of serenity, and find the reason from which I had been spared, first in Vietnam and then a second time, an alcoholic death".

Puller, 48, was the son of Lt. General Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller Sr., whose heroism in the Pacific during World War II helped make him the most decorated U.S. Marine in history.

When his father retired in 1955, the Puller family moved to Saluda. His Mother, Mrs. Virginia Puller, still resides there.

Puller graduated from Christchurch School in 1962 and later from the College of William and Mary. He returned to Christchurch in 1992 as the school's graduation speaker.

Christchurch headmaster Rev. Robert Phipps remembered Puller this week.

"Lewis Puller knew the answer to the question, 'Am I my brother's keeper?' The Christchurch School family is celebrating the life and mourning the death of one of her most popular sons. He is loved and honored for his service to his country."

However, our respect goes beyond that, said Phipps.

"He is admired for his courage, his accomplishments, and for all that he gave to those in need. His service to veterans and to all folks who struggled with pain and massive obstacles is a model for each of us to strive to emulate."