MICHIGAN CITY – “You have to believe in yourself. Every human life has a purpose,” state Sen. Mike Bohacek told juniors and seniors at Michigan City High School on Friday.

The students were gathered in the school’s gymnasium for the annual observation of Veterans Day, which is Sunday.

In addition to explaining to students the significance of the national holiday – a day of recognition for all veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, always celebrated on Nov. 11 – Bohacek talked about a local Marine who served his "purpose" when he fought and died to save his companions during the Vietnam War.

Private First Class Daniel D. Bruce was only 19 years old when he made the ultimate sacrifice, Bohacek said. The Barker Junior High and Elston High grad gave his life to save his fellow Marines.

Bruce was on night watch on March 1, 1969, when Vietnamese soldiers launched an explosive at his post. He caught it, held it to his body, and ran from his position in order to keep the others from being killed by the blast.

The charge exploded seconds later, killing Bruce.

His one and only child was born back in the United States the next day.

For his act of heroism, Bruce was awarded the Medal of Honor. His other military awards included the Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnamese Service Medal with one bronze star, and the Vietnam Campaign Medal. He was also honored with a memorial near the Coast Guard station in Washington Park.

Bohacek reminded students at MCHS that holidays like Veterans Day are about much more than retail sales and time off from school or work.

And he challenged them: “Believe in yourself without reservation. And act.”

Local veterans were seated in the front row at the event, during which the MCJROTC wowed the crowd with a presentation of arms; the choir performed various patriotic songs; the band played the song of each military branch; and everyone observed a moment of silence followed by the playing of taps.

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