As a young boy in North Carolina, Dan Bullock had always dreamed of being a United States Marine.

A forged birth certificate helped him enlist early, at age 14, and the quiet Marine made it through boot camp and headed to Vietnam. Less than one month later he was dead, at 15 years old — making him the youngest service member killed during that war. For decades, his story wasn't fully understood or recognized.

Pfc. Dan Bullock, on Memorial Day, was recognized in Goldsboro, North Carolina, with a historical marker and a road named in his honor. 

For the past 2½ years, Goldsboro attorney Tommy Jarrett, a former Marine judge advocate and Vietnam vet, has taken it upon himself to plead Bullock's case to the North Carolina State Historical Commission for a roadside marker.

"I kind of felt akin with this kid," Jarrett said. "He was a native of the county; I'm not a native but I moved here. He was a Marine. I was a Marine. People are drawn to his story."

In recent months, Bullocks's story has begun to finally gain national attention. Military Times in February produced a documentary about Bullock and the legacy his service has left behind. 

Securing Bullock's historical marker was a team effort. With some investigative help, Jarrett located one of Bullock’s sisters, who lives out of state. The sister helped him locate a second sister — this one living just down the road in Goldsboro. Porter Bullock Barnes was present at the Memorial Day sign unveiling along with nearly 150 other spectators, veterans and city officials, and was "quite pleased," Jarrett said.

Like the Special Forces master sergeant who had brought his daughters to visit Bullock’s grave each year on the young Marine’s Dec. 21 birthday to teach them lessons in patriotism, many people have been drawn to Bullock’s story over the years.

One of those individuals, Bill Boyd, has independently been working to get a street in Goldsboro named after Bullock, according to Jarrett.

As of this Memorial Day, the street leading into the cemetery where Bullock is buried proudly boasts the name Pfc. Dan Bullock Way.

Bullock's boot camp friend Franklin McArthur and Vietnam buddy Steve Piscitelli have had a lot to do with awareness of Bullock's story.

Piscitelli said in Vietnam he had a strong desire to protect Bullock. After his death, when his age was revealed, Piscitelli now knows why.

Piscitelli and Bullock arrived in Vietnam together, and were there together the night Bullock died. Piscitelli said he is very much eager to visit the historical marker at the 200 block of West Ash Street this summer.

"It means so much to me because he was 14, he went through boot camp," he said. "That’s heroic. I couldn’t have done that. I couldn’t have done that at 17."

Initially, Bullock had been buried without a headstone — and it stayed that way for 31 years.

That changed in the year 2000, when talk show host Sally Jessy Raphael had read in the newspaper, and heard from her former combat Marine head of security, according to Goldsboro resident Phil Kastner, about efforts to get a headstone, and asked if she could pay for it.

A Vietnam Army vet, Kastner has been tending Bullock’s grave for years.

He initially heard about Bullock in an online Vietnam vet forum and went in search of the grave, only to find it two miles from his home.

He often wonders why Bullock joined the Marines so young — and what was going on in his head while he was in Vietnam. He imagines his own life at 15, when he was at a warm and safe home at night with his family.

Kastner sits and speaks to Bullock’s memory when he visits and cleans up the grave and the Marine Corps flags he had purchased, like he has for at least the past decade.

"I really wish I had met him," Kastner said.

Andrea Scott is managing editor of Marine Corps Times. On Twitter: @_andreascott.

Andrea Scott is editor of Marine Corps Times.

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