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A Proud Flag-waving American Veteran

By CAROL SONES SHETLER - Reporter | Nov 10, 2020

Navy veteran Perry Bullis at flagpole surrounded by statuary representing the Army career of his father and Perry, his sailor son.

MONTGOMERY –  Perry Bullis of Montgomery, who did a six-year stint in the Navy during the Vietnamese War, describes himself as a proud flag-waving American.  Once the story is shared, one understands the reasoning behind his military themed lawn décor.

Bullis was born in Minnesota to a military family, his father, a 30-year Army veteran of World War II and Korea. “We moved around a lot, eventually settling in Montgomery after dad retired. My father had met Eugene Bartlett, a fellow soldier from this part of Pennsylvania. We came in 1962 and I graduated four years later with the class of 1967 at Montgomery Area High School,” Bullis said.

The veteran chose to serve in the Navy where time was divided between being on sea or land. He was assigned to Navy Aviator Strategical Missions as Load Master on a cargo aircraft. His job was making certain items were strapped down with the plane evenly loaded for weight counterbalance.

While aboard ship, pilots spent time practicing flying in simulators where Bullis made certain they knew the correct procedure for strapping in and getting out. “Our crew transported Navy Seal teams, mail and whatever supplies were needed. We sometimes had a couple of pigs aboard as the military had a program to provide the Vietnamese with animals to build herds for food. We figured they probably ate them as soon as we were in the air,” Bullis said.  He also said that, “Flying during wartime was dangerous and our plane once took hit, so we painted a Purple Heart on it.”

Upon entering, inductees were shown a survival film. “Two lessons in the course taught us how to deal with wounds if lost for a time in the jungle. We were to find maggots, put them on the wound to eat the dead skin keeping the wound clean. If food were scarce, we could eat the maggots which fortunately I didn’t need to do,” Bullis said. Another survival tip was to beware of snakes. Vietnam not only had cobras, but tiny vipers also poisonous.

Between flights, the veteran stayed in local barracks where the men had constructed separate rooms. Due to the heat, wire coverings were placed beneath the roof  to allow air flow.

“It was unusual to see cats, but there were two in the barracks. One night as I slept shirtless, I felt this small wiggling sensation on my leg. Awakened, my thoughts went to the snakes in the training film. It seemed like an eternity, but I’m sure it was only a few seconds when I decided to dive off the bed. I discovered the wiggle was that of a cat’s tail. Both of us were okay but I’d sweated so much, my sheet was wet,” Bullis said of the experience.

As for military personnel whose paths he’d crossed in ‘Nam,’ he recalled just missing Ned Neitz as one was coming while the other was going.

For the past 50 years, Bullis has been a member of Bower-Decker American Legion Post of Montgomery, and a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars at Muncy.

The veteran was a 32-year employee with Grumman Allied. Currently, he drives bus in the Montgomery School District for Mowery Transportation. The route is a loop passing the Brick Church, Heilman Drive and down State Home Road, where his young passengers get a glimpse of their drivers lawnscape. A concrete sailor saluting an Army soldier symbolizes a father and son’s service to our nation. High overhead,  Old Glory waves, lighted 24/7 by this self described, ‘Proud Flag-waving American Patriot.’