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Bambi Bullard: The Invisible Veteran’s Time to Shine!

As a bold woman entering adulthood during the ‘70s, Bambi Bullard knew what she had to do to survive in this world – and not only has she survived, she has truly thrived. Bambi grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana, and was very aware that she was ready to learn and transform as a young woman amongst the norm. To continue her education, she knew if she joined the Military, she could accomplish her goals through the GI Bill. She laughed as she said, “and boy, did I use that benefit!” Bambi earned several graduate degrees: technology, business administration, business management, and political science/history.

The day Bambi enlisted, she came home to tell her mother, who fully supported her ambitions because she knew it was the best option for her daughter at the time. Women were not allowed in combat-type positions and the Vietnam War had also just ended so it was not as frightening of a time to join. Bambi chose the Marines because of her family history: she had a few uncles in the Marines, an aunt who was one of the only women Marines in the ‘40s, and both of Bambi’s brothers were in the Military, one in the Navy and one in the Army. Bambi wanted to throw herself into the Marines just to see if she could do it – a pattern you will easily see by continuing to read this article. So, Bambi turned twenty-one during boot camp and served fifteen years.

During her time, Bambi served all over the East Coast. While in Camp Lejeune, she was assigned to the Criminal Investigation Division and was one of the first women to go through Military Police on-the-job training. She was transferred to Paris Island to become a Drill Instructor for recruits, where she flew through the ranks with three meritorious positions. She was also “frocked” for a promotion to work in the Pentagon where she specifically worked for the Secretary of the Navy. She stayed for six years and during this time in the DC area, she also volunteered to be the commander of a youth group working with underprivileged kids called “Young Marines.” After a physical issue, she medically retired in 1990.

As Bambi thought back on her time spent in the Marines, a few memories stood out. She was a part of the last Woman Marine Company that existed in the Marine Corps and when she held the position of Company Gunny, she pulled one of those “better to ask for forgiveness than for permission” tactics. This was a time before women were allowed to take part in any activities for training that were combat-related. Radically (but naturally for Bambi), she took about twenty women out to the ninety-foot rappelling tower that you climb up and rappel off of the top ledge using a rope. Bambi was actually terrified of heights, but she knew if she put herself in a position where she would have to do it with all of these other women watching then she would have to get over it and just do it, and no surprise, she conquered it.

The funny, yet ironic part of this story is when the Captain called Bambi into her office afterward and said, “So I heard you did a little thing. You do realize that’s not authorized and that women are not allowed to participate in that type of training?” and Bambi replied, “Well ma’am, maybe we ‘can’t,’ but we sure did!” Bambi could tell she was trying hard to stay serious, but she had a smirk when she ordered, “Never again!” As Bambi was on her way out the door, the Captain stopped her and said, “Make sure you add this entry into all of those women’s record books that they completed this.” Bambi helped these women achieve this recognition that was not even possible at the time and that is absolutely something to be proud of.

The other memory that came to mind was when Bambi was a part of the first test platoon of women to go out to the rifle range to see how women reacted to handling M16 Rifles and .45-Pistols. The media and reporters were everywhere because this was 1977 and women were not allowed to qualify and shoot for record until the early ’80s. Again, a proud first to be a part of. Bambi recruited, trained, and put so many women marines through classes and platoons and years later, thanks to social media, many of these women have reached out and thanked her. She said, “For so many of these women to go out of their way to find me and explain to me what an impact and difference I have made for them personally, that is by far the coolest part about my entire service.”

Even though Bambi is retired, her service to the military never ended and is far from over. Bambi understands the hardships a woman faces when leaving the service and entering civilian life. She encourages everyone who has served to take full advantage of the benefits offered and any program that helps assist through the transition process. She also wants veterans to understand how important it is to join groups and to be surrounded by others who have been through the same experiences. The research and statistics are being done and are more publicized now showing that seventy-five percent of women veterans have been subjected to some sort of assault. Military Sexual Trauma (MST) is just as prevalent for women as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder PTSD is. The Veteran’s Affairs (VA) is now recognizing this as a major issue and is making efforts to provide program resources, and although things are slowly getting better for women, those previously affected still need help.

Bambi is here to provide that help as she has started and is the Commander of the Grand Strand Women Veterans since March of 2019. This group is meant to provide stability for one another and to act as an advocate for women veterans. Many veterans hit a wall in the VA system as they are often mistreated or not treated at all, and this group knows the right people to make things happen as they should, and that is their main focus. Bambi also travels and gives speeches to shine a light on the “invisible veteran.” This topic is so important because a multitude of women veterans do not even identify as veterans. This inaccurate mindset mainly comes from the men who try to belittle women veterans by saying these women are not “real veterans” because they did not go to combat during their time serving. Bambi said, “You would not believe the number of men who try to dismiss me by saying that they completed their entire four-year tour and never saw a woman on base, but back then, the jobs were separated and now women are moving into those front-line positions. That does not mean that our roles were any less important back then, but I can at least say that we are not so ‘invisible’ anymore!” Having a support system in place is the foundation of continuing as a veteran in the civilian lifestyle and that is what Bambi is here to provide – support, honor, and respect.

As Commander of the Grand Strand Women Veterans, Bambi hopes to make this organization a stand-alone non-profit and is hoping to purchase land to provide a permanent home for women veteran retreats. Bambi is a legacy to many, but she wants this sacred space to be her true legacy. She is also the Regent of the Carolina Gold Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Murrells Inlet and because of how highly involved she is, she has the connections (and the passion) to bring this dream to life. Bambi is also a part of the Rolling Thunder and American Legion which are so much more than motorcycle riding groups. These nonprofits are well known for their charitable work for not only veterans and their families, but also children’s hospitals, schools, and scholarships. The Rolling Thunder focuses on the cause to bring full accountability for the Prisoners Of War-Missing In Action (POW/MIA) of all wars, reminding everyone by their watchwords: “We Will Not Forget.”

Everything Bambi takes part in is connected and she is in business mode from the time she wakes up until the time she falls over at night. Bambi expressed with enthusiasm, “I don’t know how to retire because if I stopped, I might die. This is my purpose!” Bambi needs all of the women veterans out there to hear her message and to know there is a support system in place. At the end of our interview, Bambi graciously thanked me for this opportunity, and I thanked her for her continued, devoted service.

If you are interested in joining
The Grand Strand Women Veterans, please contact:
Commander, Bambi Bullard – bambijo@sccoast.net
Vice Commander, Elisabeth Litvin – Elisabeth.litvin@outlook.com

One comment

  1. What a brave woman! Especially for back then when a girl was sort of bucking expectations to go off and join the military! Ms. Bullard is so committed to service. I was interested in seeing she is a Regent with the DAR. That’s a lot of work, too. I am a member myself and admire those who take leadership positions. I always enjoy the camaraderie of women but one thing I notice in particular at DAR Meetings is how interesting the conversations are, even when seated with strangers.

    Great interview.

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