Fallen Marines' mother talks about son killed at Camp Pendleton
Dena Polk said she was on Facebook Wednesday afternoon when she noticed an NBC News story pop up reporting that four Marines were killed in an incident at Camp Pendleton, California. She sent a message to her son's Facebook account asking for him to check in with her and let her know he was OK.
She never did get a message from her son, Gunnery Sgt. Gregory J. Mullins, 31, of Bayou L’Ourse. Instead, about four hours later, she heard the knock on the door every parent fears whose child is serving their country.
Her son was one of the Marines killed Wednesday morning at California’s Camp Pendleton during a routine sweep to make a range safer for training exercises.
Mullins, who will be buried next week in California, died doing what he spent his entire life wanting to do -- serving his country and helping others, his mother said.
He left behind a mother who, trying bravely to control her emotions, called him "my first love ... my heart ... the first blessing in my life."
Also left behind were Mullins' wife, Violeta, from Peru whom he has been with for four years and their children Ethan, 3, and Giovanna, 2, as well as his stepdaughter, Camila, 9, who he cherished as his own, Polk said.
"I do not know where he got his parenting skills," Polk said. "But he was an amazing father. He is the daddy every child would want and the husband every woman would dream of," Polk said.
Craig Mullins, 27, flew in Thursday from working offshore to help his mother cope with the loss of her firstborn child and the expected crush of media attention that Polk shied away from.
"We were always a pretty close family, Craig Mullins said. "I am very proud of my brother. You could not ask for a better brother or a better man."
Another brother, Christopher Polk, 24, also flew in from offshore to come be with his mother who is living in Morgan City
Sarah Polk, 21, was made aware of her brother's death Wednesday night and is expected in Morgan City on Sunday.
After graduating from Morgan City High School, Gregory Mullins joined the Marine Corps in March 2002 fulfilling a lifelong goal, his mother said.
"Some people have a calling. This was Gregory's calling," His mother said. "I told him there were other options. He thought about anthropology a little bit, but he always came back to this is what he wanted to do."
Loyalty, courage and integrity were important to her son and becoming a Marine helped him make those qualities part of his life, she said. His quiet mannerisms could not hide his genuine care and concern about other people.
"He has friends and was loved across the globe," Polk said. "Everywhere he went they had beautiful things to say about him."
Gregory Mullins was the explosive ordnance disposal noncommissioned officer-in-charge at Headquarters Squadron, Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton. He was promoted to his current rank in February.
His brother called him a natural-born leader and his mother said that "when it came to his men, he cared so much. He loved his men and his country."
Polk said she was 16 when her first son was born. "Gregory and I grew up together," she said in trying to explain the depth of her love and affection for him.
Although his mother and father lived in separate states, Gregory Mullins, the oldest of nine siblings, spent a lot of time with both parents and his siblings as he grew up, Polk said. She has three other children and his birth father, Christopher Holbert, who lives in Alvin, Texas, with his wife, has five grown children.
His step-father, Paul Polk Jr., was also an integral and important part of her son's life, and loved Gregory Mullins as his own, Polk said.
"Gregory loved all of his family. But the last four years he was focused on his beautiful wife and his children," Polk said. "He was a wonderful person and Violeta brought out a real beauty in him."
As she talked about her son, she caught a glimpse of a newscast that spoke of his medals and honors in the military.
"Oh my! Gregory would be rolling over in his grave," she said. "He hated the hoopla of awards. Any type of award he was given, it was like pulling his teeth. 'This is just my job,' he would say. He didn't see anything spectacular about doing what he was supposed to do."
The family was planning on spending Christmas together in California.
"We are all broken right now," Polk said. "He would want us to be strong, but it is so hard."
She added, "He was a wonderful man, a wonderful son, a wonderful Marine... My love for him is eternal."
Gregory Mullins was deployed twice to Afghanistan in 2011 and 2012 as a team leader.
Mullins’ awards include two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, Combat Action Ribbon, three Marine Corps Good Conduct Medals, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and NATO Medal-ISAF Afghanistan.