STANISLAUS, CA, US
U.S. Marine Corps
LCPL, HQ BN, (HQSVC CO, 2D BN, 6TH MAR, RCT-5), 2D MAR DIV, CAMP LEJEUNE, NC
03/10/2006, FALLUJAH, IRAQ
Even as a child, Bunny Long knew that he wanted to be a soldier. When he was 6, he asked his mother for a camouflage uniform with the words “U.S. Army” stitched across the shirt. So it was with little surprise — but considerable pride among his family of Cambodian immigrants — that he enlisted in the Marine Corps. The Modesto High School graduate shipped out last fall for a tour in Iraq. A lance corporal, his job was to transport soldiers and supplies in a 7-ton truck through some of the country’s most dangerous terrain.
Long, 22, was killed March 10, one month before the end of his tour, when a suicide car bomber sped toward a command post he was guarding in Fallouja, west of Baghdad. Long was standing at an upper-floor window when the explosion destroyed the front of the building, killing him immediately as well as two Iraqis, said Marine Capt. Donn Puca, the casualty officer for Stanislaw and San Joaquin counties. “The shrapnel is what got him,” Puca said.
Long was assigned to the Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C. He was credited with saving nearly two dozen troops in the incident that claimed his life. Puca said that Long had parked his truck adjacent to the tower he was guarding. The vehicle deflected some of the exploding shrapnel, sparing other Marines. Some of those troops wrote to Long’s family in Modesto to express their gratitude. One letter said that Long saved the lives of 21 Marines. Another, from a commanding officer, Col. L.D. Nicholson, said that Long “will always be a hero and an angel to the Marines of his company.”
Long followed his father into military life. Sim Long, 61, served in the Cambodian air force before the Khmer Rouge took control of the country in the mid-1970s. Sim Long said he was pleased that his son Bunny (pronounced Boony) decided to serve the family’s adopted country. He was even more pleased that Bunny joined the Marines, the military’s elite branch that serves on the front lines.
“This is our home,” Sim Long said of the United States. “I’m very proud that Bunny was able to give back to his country, our country.”
Bunny Long was born in Memphis, Tenn., in 1983, the youngest of four children. His family endured hardship before arriving in this country. Sim Long and his wife, Yen Chea, had been imprisoned for four years by the Khmer Rouge in a labor camp, where an infant son starved to death, according to their adult children in Modesto. The couple spent two years in a Thai refugee camp before they — along with three children — fled in 1982 to the United States, where they were sponsored by a Christian church in Memphis. Two years after they arrived, the Longs moved to Modesto, where they had Cambodian friends. That is where Bunny Long grew up.
Long showed a proclivity for the military at an early age. A picture of him at about age 6 shows a smiling boy, in neatly pressed green, gray and white fatigues. His mother thought it was cute when he asked for the uniform, said his sister, Sokhom Long, 25. She said the military offered Long the adventure that he couldn’t find in school. “He loved the thrill and excitement of it,” she said.
Long’s older brother, Bunna, 31, helped raise him. The two are 9 1/2 years apart. Bunna has turned a glass cabinet inside his Modesto home into a makeshift memorial. It holds Bunny’s personal belongings, including his photo album, his favorite hat, one of his uniforms and five U.S. flags that have been flown in his honor in Washington and Iraq.
“It gives me memories of him every time I look at it,” Bunna Long said. “I pretty much raised him when he was little. I changed his diapers. I took care of him. I fed him. There are times when I see him as a baby running around.”
In addition to his parents, brother and sister, Long is survived by another sister, Sokha Long, 26; an uncle and an aunt.