Spencerport WWII Veteran Gene Walker receives Bronze Star

By on June 24, 2019
Family, friends and neighbors attended the breakfast event. Seated (l-r) Paul Caton, granddaughter Melinda Walker, Gene Walker, daughter-in-law Shery Walker, friend Ray Czarniak. Standing (l-r) Nancy Stavalone, Sandy Saylor and Lee Arbegast.

Family, friends and neighbors attended the breakfast event. Seated (l-r) Paul Caton, granddaughter Melinda Walker, Gene Walker, daughter-in-law Shery Walker, friend Ray Czarniak. Standing (l-r) Nancy Stavalone, Sandy Saylor and Lee Arbegast.

by Jay Diedreck

In our lives we encounter many heroes, some of whom we are aware of and others who have quietly protected us without us even knowing. One of these heroes is living with us right now, Stewart Gene Walker.

Gene was born in 1915 and lived in a town named Flint, nestled between Geneva and Canandaigua. His Scottish parents farmed the land for 15 years harvesting cherries, asparagus, peaches, strawberries and tomatoes. Later on, the family moved to Brockport buying another farm on Gordon Road, where they sent their produce to the Brockport canning factory. There, Gene attended high school in a one-room-schoolhouse.

Life was simpler back then although full of hard work for Gene, farming was not an easy life. Then in February 1941, at 26 years old, Gene had to leave the family farm because he was drafted into the Army for World War II. He had 13 weeks of Army medical first aid training then was sent to several different locations as he served the entire duration of WW II as an army medic corpsman. He was assigned to the 34th Infantry, which was designated the outstanding regiment of the Carolina Maneuvers of 1941. The regiment was at San Francisco awaiting embarkation on December 7, when the attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into the war. The regiment was reassigned to the Hawaiian Department and its convoy rerouted to Oahu, where it arrived on December 21. The 34th Infantry, operating as an element of the 24th Infantry Division, participated in some of the most horrific combat under the most insufferable weather and terrain conditions of the War in the Pacific. With the protection of night every evening, Gene drove his Jeep, headlights off, into the battlefield. With bullets flying overhead intended for him, he tended to the wounded so they could continue to fight. He transported other soldiers to the medical station. Many in the regiment that he worked alongside, received medals.

After the war, Gene’s military records were destroyed in a fire, which meant he didn’t receive any of his deserved medals from the military. In 2015, 70 years after the fact, thanks to the persistence, work and love of his neighbors, Ron (who has lost his battle with MS) and Judy Lockwood, he received the Good Conduct Medal, Honorable Service Button, American Defense Service Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, WW II Victory Medal and Philippine Liberation Ribbon and Bronze Star.

On June 12, 2019, thanks to another neighbor, Lee Arbegast (who went as far as asking the White House staff for assistance), Gene Walker received additional recognition and medals. This event was held over breakfast at Slayton Place. More than 50 people were present to honor and recognize neighbor, friend and hero, Gene Walker. In attendance was the Monroe County American Legion Honor Guard; Jerry Cunningham, Don Sisson, Vice Commander and Jane Decker, Vice Commander of Ferris Goodridge Post 330. Decker, a 40-year veteran presented Gene with: Bronze Star Medal for bravery, heroism in the face of combat; Certificate of Honor; Medic Badge; and two Silver Stars.

Accompanied by neighbor, Sandy Saylor, Gene visits Canal View Elementary School three times a year. For one of these annual visits, he talks to the fifth grade students about his experiences in World War II and what life was like for a boy born in 1915. The students are always mesmerized by his stories.

With his humble, grateful and positive personality, Gene Walker said that during the war, he was scared but did his job. Now at this medal and ribbon presentation, he expressed gratitude for the turnout of 50 plus people, noting that he didn’t know he had so many friends. 

On June 12 Gene Walker received the Bronze Star Medal, Certificate of Honor, Medic Badge and two Silver Stars.

On June 12 Gene Walker received the Bronze Star Medal, Certificate of Honor, Medic Badge and two Silver Stars.

 Gene visits Canal View Elementary School three times a year to talk with students about his experiences in WWII. This photo is from a 2017 visit.


Gene visits Canal View Elementary School three times a year to talk with students about his experiences in WWII. This photo is from a 2017 visit.

 

Gene Walker with (l-r) Don Sisson, Vice Commander Monroe County American Legion; Jane Decker, Vice Commander Ferris Goodridge Post 330; and Jerry Cunningham, Monroe County American Legion Honor Guard.

Gene Walker with (l-r) Don Sisson, Vice Commander Monroe County American Legion; Jane Decker, Vice Commander Ferris Goodridge Post 330; and Jerry Cunningham, Monroe County American Legion Honor Guard.