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25106 Bujalski, David A.
August 18, 1940 - August 15, 1967

David A. Bujalski   

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Our military monastery captured Buj from St. John’s (Minnesota) after two years. Spartan life fitted him perfectly? Ole Buj has proved “in there” for coaching H-2’s academic and social goats. His mental and physical acumen and very pro fiancée, will take him far.

~ USMA 1964 Howitzer

“Sir, New Cadet Bujalski reports to Mister Dreesbach, the first sergeant of the First New Cadet Company, for the first time as ordered.”

“Very good, mister,” replied the cadet first sergeant, as he checked the name off his list. “Now squeeze that neck in and report back to your squad leader!”

New Cadet David Allan Bujalski felt momentarily proud that he was able to report in correctly on his first attempt, word for word. After all, while he had been standing in line to do so, he observed that almost all of his classmates ahead of him had stumbled over the words and had been sent back to the end of the line to try again. As he hustled back to rejoin his squad, he realized that was only one obstacle of the many he would have to overcome that day, the first day of “Beast Barracks” at the United States Military Academy. He still had to get a haircut (a “Beast” skinning), learn how to march, get fitted for his uniforms, shine his shoes, polish brass, put away a ton of clothing and other items that had been dumped on his bed, and then march in formation to Trophy Point for the swearing in ceremony.

It was an incredibly hectic day, but, almost miraculously, the six new cadet companies of the Class of 1964, clad in gray wool (the lighter weight cotton uniforms came out years later), appeared in formation and were marched by the upperclass cadre to Trophy Point where they swore allegiance to their country. As David was marching back to South Area, his stomach reminded him that supper time was approaching. At six feet three and over two hundred pounds, this young man was accustomed to hearty meals, and the few tiny bites of lunch he was permitted did little to fill the void inside. Supper was no better, however, as David and his classmates found themselves passing food and drinks, being screamed at, and eating very little. Some new cadets, who had no previous military connections, were practically in a state of shock at the treatment they were receiving. Even though David had an older brother who graduated from West Point (Jack, Class of ‘58) and told him what to expect, the firsthand experience was a definite jolt. As David hungrily marched back to his room, he wondered what would happen that evening. He was hoping there would be some time for him and his two roommates to organize the mess in their room and start putting a good military “spit” shine on their boots and shoes. He knew there probably wouldn’t be time for a movie as one of his unaware classmates had suggested before checking in that morning.

Upon arriving back in the room, David heard his squad leader’s voice bellowing, “All you dumb smacks report to my room immediately!” As they stood, bracing, a few minutes later, the squad leader informed them that they were dirty and smelly, but the training schedule had a solution for such a problem. Each evening at a designated time a shower formation would be held and the first one would begin in five minutes. The shower formation would be conducted as follows: each new cadet would stand at a rigid position of attention in front of his locker in the sinks (basement). The uniform would be slippers and a bathrobe, with the left hand extended, holding a soapbox and having a towel neatly folded over the wrist. When a new cadet’s bathrobe was quite soaked with sweat, he would be given permission to take a short shower. At first David thought it might take all night to get sweaty enough for a shower, but he soon found out that this was something in which he excelled. As the upperclassmen jumped around screaming at the plebes, David kept squeezing his neck in and tensing his big body. Once the beads of sweat starting popping out, they didn’t stop. Invariably, during that summer, David was one of the first to take a shower and get back to his room. This gave him extra time to take care of other duties that those who didn’t sweat well often never got to.

After “Beast Barracks” David was assigned to Company M-2, where, as a flanker, he fit in just fine. As a group, the plebes in the Mighty Deuce felt quite fortunate to be there. Life as a plebe was not easy anywhere but it was well known to be more bearable in M-2 than in most other companies. Perhaps David and his plebe-company mates were a little too comfortable, however. One time during the winter, when they were marching in formation past the mess hall to the library, the classmate in charge of the group said, “Let’s do a Buckner Rocket!” the Rocket is a cadet cheer which goes, “(Whistle) – BOOM! – Ahhh, USMA Rah! Rah! USMA Rah! Rah! Hoo - Rah! Hoo - Rah! AR – MAY! Rah! Team! Team! Team!” The Buckner Rocket, starting with the same whistle, goes, “BOOM! – Ahhh, SHIT!”

When the twenty-eight or so M-2 plebes rendered their extremely loud Buckner Rocket, the formation was immediately halted by a nearby officer. By the time they returned to the barracks, the company tactical officer and an irate group of cadet leaders were waiting the tear into the bold young plebes. They were promised an appropriate punishment which turned out to be a hike through the academy hills the following Sunday afternoon, in combat gear. Such a hike would have been difficult enough on a cold day, but it just happened to have snowed about two feet that weekend. It was a rough trek, especially for the not-so-tall Southerners. But for long-legged David from North Dakota, it was a walk in the park. The worst part of the entire ordeal, though, was that they had to spend practically the whole evening cleaning their rifles, equipment and boots.

During his four years as a cadet, David earned the respect and admiration of his classmates through his unselfish giving of time and effort in academic coaching, his active participation in extracurricular activities and intramural sports, and his own academic achievements. He was always on the Dean’s Lest and graduated in the top third of the class.

David was from a strong family who considered service to God and country above all else. He was born on 18 August 1940 in Valley City, North Dakota, the youngest of six children born to Gladys and john Bujalski. At first he was called “Little David” but it wasn’t long before that nickname disappeared as he outgrew his older siblings. The development of his character kept pace with his physical growth and he became a cheerful, friendly, loveable young giant.

David’s faith in God manifested itself in his early teens. He spent his last three years of high school at St. John’s High in Collegeville, Minnesota, preparing for the priesthood. However, during his senior year he realized he did not have a religious vocation. He continued at St. John’s University for two more years, majoring in physics and trying to decide how he could best serve his fellow man. During that time one of David’s brothers was at West Point and another was at the Air Force Academy. David was deeply impressed with the influence those institutions had on his brothers and with the work his brothers were doing, so, he decided to follow in their footsteps.

Upon graduation, David was commissioned in the artillery. Three days later he married Barbara DePretoro, whom he had met during yearling year while she was a student at Ladycliff College, just outside the gate in Highland Falls (it has since closed down, the property was bought by the government and is presently utilized by various USMA agencies). The honeymoon came to an abrupt halt when David had to depart for Ranger School in early August. He didn’t have any major problems there, but his Ranger buddy, Howie Bachman, who was about forty-five pounds lighter than David, had some difficult moments during hand-to-hand combat training and rappelling down the cliff with David on his back.

After Airborne School, the young couple was off to Munich, Germany, for David’s first and only artillery assignment. While there, daughter Elizabeth Marie was born in July 1965. In June 1966 they moved to Fort Huachuca, Arizona, where David became commander of C Company, First Combat Support Training Brigade. A year later he transferred to the Corps of Engineers and shortly thereafter left for Vietnam to join the Sixty-fifth Engineer Battalion of the Twenty-fifth Infantry Division. As was typical of the men of ’64, David felt it was his duty to go there – since we were there, we had a job to do. On 15 August 1967, only eight days after his arrival, David fell victim to a sniper’s bullet while performing a helicopter-borne road-reconnaissance mission. It was less than two months after another aircraft tragedy – the disappearance of Cliff McKittrick. Six weeks later, daughter Kathleen Ann was born in Glen Cove, Long Island, New York.

David was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals, and on 27 March 1968 “Bujalski Field” was dedicated in his honor at Fort Huachuca. A stone monument, with a memorial plaque on top, was constructed there by the men in his company. On 29 October 1971 a rededication ceremony was held at a newly completed lighted football field with an all-weather track near the field house.

Throughout his military career, as a cadet and as an officer, David developed at a tremendous rate. The friendly young giant from North Dakota became a dedicated, skillful, highly qualified officer. In the words of his first sergeant at Fort Huachuca, “He was revered by his cadre, loved by his students, and respected by his superiors.”

I was one of David’s many good friends and I always felt it was a joy and a privilege to be in M-2 with Dave during plebe and yearling years. He was a star among us, truly a gentle giant who was highly respected by all, upperclassmen, underclassmen, and classmates alike. Big and strong, smart, level-headed, decent, selfless – that was Dave. Everyone admired him.

We were on the intramural water polo team together during yearling year. Our team was great – we only lost one of eleven games – to the eventual brigade champions. Basically, though, we were a one-man team – David Bujalski. He probably made ninety percent of our goals. I can still picture him, rising up out of the water like a big whale and firing a bullet into the net. Goaltenders were terrified of him.

I remember the last time I saw him. It was the spring of 1966. I was sitting in my office in Gelnhausen, Germany, and in walked Dave, wearing his field gear. His unit was conducting a field training exercise in the vicinity, so he dropped by for a cup of coffee. We talked about old times, current times and the future. We lamented the combat losses of Hutch, Clair, and David and acknowledged that we would soon see combat also. That Dave would die in Vietnam, though, was the furthest thing from my mind.

A few years later, my wife and I were driving through Arizona and we took a side trip to Fort Huachuca to see Bujalski Field. It was a fitting tribute to a most deserving American who gave it all for his country just as he gave it all for his family and friends for almost twenty-seven years.

David’s life was too short for him to have reached his full potential. We can only conjecture as to what he would have achieved, but we do know that he influenced the lives of those who knew him. David was a man for all seasons and was big not only in size, but mentally, morally, and spiritually as well. The strength which his outer form so forcefully displayed was only a picture of his inner strength of character. An army chaplain and close friend of David’s wrote the following words, which epitomize the regard we all had for David, “One of God’s saints has come and gone and richer is the world which he passed through.”

David does live on, though, in his daughters and in his grandson, David Anthony Chiariello, who was born on 26 July 1994, the son of Elizabeth and her husband Dominic. Barbara, who has had the good fortune to marry Jack Drinane, brought her family, including young David, to the Class of ‘64’s thirtieth reunion in October 1994 at West Point. He was a robust three-month-old and one look at him left no doubt about who his maternal grandfather was. If he grows up to be anything like his grandfather, he’ll be a great man.

~ Fallen Warriors The West Point Class of 1964 by John Murray

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