Donald Jene Fulham - 1928 - 2019


Donald Jene Fulham
4 July 1928 – 28 February 2019
McMinnville, OR – San Diego, CA

Integrity. His never faltered. Love. He loved deeply, God, Country, Corps, Family. Right out of High School, in 1946, he stood in the yellow footprints at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego as a “boot." Completing his two years of service, he was discharged and enrolled in Linfield College. When the Korean “Police Action” broke out, he joined the Marine Reserves and upon graduation returned to active duty as a Lieutenant and thus became a career Marine. He never looked back. Returning from Korea in 1954 he was assigned to two years of sea duty aboard the USS Intrepid. In 1955 he married Ann Gary. They subsequently had three children, Donna, Erin, and Gary. A variety of duty assignments followed. Montana, Camp Lejeune, N.C., Quantico, Va., El Toro, Ca. and three tours in Vietnam, where he commanded the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, also known as “the Walking Dead”, so named for the intense and continuing unrelenting attacks they endured in 1967. He never forgot the lives lost there.
Returning from Vietnam, he was sent to Quantico, Va., Hqtrs Marine Corps, D.C. Naval War College, and back to Camp Lejeune where he was promoted to Brig. General. In 1984 he returned to Korea as a Maj. General to serve on the staff of the Commander in Chief. In 1986 he was offered command of MCRD, San Diego, Ca. He announced that he had started there and he would retire there. In 1988, he did just that. The ensuing years were happy and productive, being involved in several businesses and community projects.
Years of back injuries, starting with High School and College football, not to forget 40 years as an infantry officer, would lead to disabling back pain in the past few years. He could no longer run in the hills that he so loved. He passed away holding Ann’s hand.

My father loved living, engaging in the who, what, when, where and why of everything and everyone he encountered. If applicable, he would love to explore and debate said topics through thoughtful discussion and/or lively civil discourse, sometimes playing the devil’s advocate to get different perspectives, provoke thought and stimulate conversation (with the exception of Jane Fonda – he had one only opinion). He was in awe of nature, he found great pleasure, healing and peace in the great outdoors. Whenever possible he preferred to be outside working, hiking, swimming, running, or just observing. In nature he touched base with his version of the Great Creator.
He Loved family in all its myriad forms. The Marine Corps, country, community, friends and especially his own. Family gave him purpose as he strove to provide, protect, educate and love. As a father he encouraged us to question everything, test our limits (and often those of our parents) and to learn from our mistakes. He taught us to be accountable for our thoughts and actions. He cheered us in our successes and comforted us in our losses. He was a great advocate of learning through reading, education and travel. His love and admiration for my Mom was unequivocal and inspiring. We learned about unconditional love, partnership, responsibility, friendship and forgiveness through their example. My parents are my greatest heroes. They taught us to ask questions, to listen, to think for ourselves and to stand our ground when necessary. They inspired us to keep moving forward even when it was easier to withdraw, about sacrifice for the greater good. They taught us to find value in everything and everyone, and that we never stand alone. Although he was gone for great periods of time, his presence and influence was always with us and so remains.

Both my parents always told me I could do anything. My father actually did work an amazing amount of occupations of which we learned about from the many stories he shared with us. Often those stories left us laughing as he had a great sense of humor and loved a good joke. Farm hand, forest fire fighter in High School (remember, all the men were at WWII). He taught me to garden and drive a tractor. Intellectually curious, he loved to debate and encouraged us to express our opinions even those he didn’t agree with. Loving husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather, his joy in his family was evident in his warm smile which started in his heart and shone out through his eyes. It is that smile which told me he loved me and was proud of me that I shall miss the most of all.

My father lived a life of dedication to his family and friends as well as service to his country and Corps. A loving husband, father and mentor, he enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1946 at MCRD, San Diego. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in 1952; served as the battalion commander of the 1st Battalion 9th Marines, the fabled Walking Dead, in Vietnam 1967 and ended his career when he began, retiring in 1988 as Commanding General of MCRD, San Diego. An inspirational leader and role model, he was the epitome of a Marine Officer, demonstrating strength of character an uncompromising integrity. He has an unmatched work ethic. He believed in the value of personal and professional accomplishment. He believed that winning was as much about personal achievement as it was about the final score. He taught his children important life lessons about the values of self-sacrifice, hard work, being true to yourself, and loyalty to family and friends. Success is as much about what we give as what we receive.


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