After 94 years, WWI veteran's family get his Purple Heart with help from NC nonprofit

N.C. nonprofit helps veteran’s daughter honor her father

mquillin@newsobserver.comNovember 12, 2012 

— Noah M. Bullock kept only a couple of mementos from his service with the Army’s 30th Division in World War I: a framed certificate from then-President Woodrow Wilson indicating he’d been wounded, and the fragment of a uniform holding a metal snap that had stopped a bullet.

Doris Bullock Gardner and her two sisters had taken that bit of fabric from time to time as children to run their fingers over the lump of lead that spilled onto the metal snap.

“But Daddy never talked about what had happened,” she said.

The story of how former PFC Bullock got hit — what he was doing, how badly he was hurt — is lost to history. Bullock died in 1969. But his family now has a lasting tribute to his sacrifice that can be passed on to future generations.

On Tuesday, Gardner accepted the Purple Heart on her father’s behalf, 94 years after he was hurt.

“I did this for my children,” Gardner said after a ceremony during the Harnett County Veterans Day event. “I didn’t want all of this to die with me.”

Gardner, 85, was researching her husband’s military history after his death in 2006 when she found the Veterans’ Legacy Foundation, a North Carolina-based nonprofit that helps veterans and their families document military service.

Gardner told John Elskamp, founder and executive director of the group, that her daddy had served in the war. She sent him a photo of the certificate she had grown up with, featuring the goddess Columbia — representing liberty — and a soldier on one knee before her.

The certificates were given to soldiers who were wounded in World War I or to the families of those who had died in the fighting. The Purple Heart was out of use at the time, having been introduced during the Revolutionary War and not revived until 1932.

Elskamp said Bullock’s case was simple compared to some he takes on. In addition to the certificate with Bullock’s name on it, Elskamp was able to find a service record for him in the state archives indicating he had served with the 30th and had been slightly wounded.

According to the archives, the 30th Division was a conglomeration of National Guard units from North and South Carolina and Tennessee. The division was called into federal service in 1917 for training and sent to Europe in May 1918. The group landed in England, then headed to France, assigned to the American 2nd Corps and attached to the British Army.

In July, the archives say, the unit was sent to the trenches near Ypres, Belgium, where it attacked and captured German positions. In September, the division was sent to the front opposite the German Hindenburg Line, near Bellicourt, France. Bullock’s unit, the 119th Infantry Regiment, along with the 120th, attacked German lines on Sept. 29.

That’s the day Bullock took fire and was injured on his hand or arm.

The 30th broke through the Hindenburg Line, but suffered about 3,000 casualties to make a 3,000-yard advance. It was the greatest loss for North Carolina since the Civil War.

In April 1919, the 30th was sent home and discharged.

Bullock returned to farming and eventually opened a country store.

Gardner said she wished she had known she could get a Purple Heart for her daddy and presented it to him before he died. Her two sons, two grandsons and two great-granddaughters attended the event.

Quillin: 919-829-8989

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