|One of a long
line of heroes
and N.Y. rescue workers put the lives of others before their own
Through the Years
By ANDREW J. DEKEVER
The name of Daniel Bruce is one of
more than 59,000 listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The memorial lists the names of all United States military personnel killed
in action during the Vietnam War between 1959 and 1975.
This is the second of a two-part story on local
veteran and American hero Daniel Bruce.
In the split second that he could see the charge
flying towards him, Bruce realized that he could run away from the explosive
in order to save his own life. However, doing that would leave the Marines
in surrounding positions vulnerable to the deadly effects of the explosive.
Running away from danger, though, was not part of the
glorious history of the United States Marine Corps.
Knowing the danger to his own life, Bruce caught the
explosive and shouted a warning to the Marines around him. Holding the
device close to his body, he ran as fast as he could, trying to get it as
far away as possible from his nearby comrades.
Seconds later, the device detonated. Bruce absorbed
the full force of the blast with his body, thus protecting three nearby
Marines from its lethal effects.
However, Dan Bruce was killed instantly. He was 18
The following day, Bruce's wife, Carol, gave birth to
a baby daughter, whom she named Stacy. As she celebrated the first day of
her daughter's life, she did not know yet that her baby's father had been
killed the day before.
On March 7, 1969, Major David Kindt of the South Bend
Marine Reserve Center traveled to Carol Bruce's home in Michigan City and
notified her that her husband had been killed in action.
Pfc. Daniel D. Bruce was laid to rest in Michigan
City's Greenwood Cemetery on March 18, 1969.
In the years that followed, Carol Bruce mourned and
then moved on with her life, eventually remarrying.
The members of Bruce's unit did not forget that they
owed their lives to his making the ultimate sacrifice to save them.
Recognizing that his actions were "above and beyond the call of duty,"
Bruce's Marine buddies recommended him for the Medal of Honor.
Thus, on February 16, 1971, President Nixon presented
Dan Bruce's Medal of Honor to his parents in a private ceremony in the East
Room of the White House.
On September 11, 2001, New York City firefighters and
police officers responded to the attacks on the World Trace Center. While
thousands of people rushed out of the burning buildings, these police
officers and firefighters rushed in, risking their lives in order to save
the lives of total strangers.
When the towers collapsed, these firefighters and
police officers died by the hundreds. America has justifiably honored their
sacrifices ever since.
We don't have to go to New York City, though, to hear
stories of courage in the face of death -- such heroic examples can be found
locally in the American Legion halls, fire stations and police departments
They also can be found in our local cemeteries, in the
stories of heroes such as Dan Bruce.
When Dan Bruce saw death flying at him on the morning
of March 1, 1969, he knew he had everything in the world to live for -- a
wife who loved him; a baby that would be born any day now; and a long, fresh
life ahead of him that was just beginning.
Yet, in a fraction of a second, Bruce chose to run
towards the explosive rather than run away from it. He knew that his actions
would make his wife a widow and leave his daughter fatherless, yet he chose
to sacrifice his life in the jungles of Vietnam.
Why? Because he loved the lives of his fellow Marines
around him more than his own life, so much so that he was willing to
sacrifice his life to save theirs.
He had known these Marines for only six weeks, yet he
gave his life for them, in much the same way that New York City rescue
workers gave their lives for complete strangers on Sept. 11.
The lesson to be learned from Dan Bruce and the Sept.
11 attacks is that people of a great society must be willing to sacrifice
for one another, even to the extent of laying down one's life to help a
Although few lines of work possess the danger inherent
in military service, firefighting and law enforcement, each of us can serve
others no matter what our line of work is -- volunteering for the South Bend
Center for the Homeless, contributing to worthwhile charities and so forth.
The outpouring of support for the victims of Sept. 11,
the nationwide increase seen in volunteer work since the attacks, and the
courage of our Armed Forces on the front lines in Afghanistan and elsewhere
in the world all bear testament to the greatness of American society.
To Dan Bruce, our nation's veterans -- past and
present -- and to all those who serve others, thank you.
Andrew J. DeKever is a 1991 graduate of Mishawaka High
School and a 1995 graduate of the University of Notre Dame. He is a U.S.
Army captain currently serving as a company commander at Fort Drum, N.Y.