Era - 1948-1957, Post World War II, the Korean War
Military job - Surgical Technician
Military schools - Medical Field Surgical School Fort Hood, Texas, Military Law and Justice School
Robert L. Gilray
Medals and Awards - Army OCC Medal Japan, Korean SVC Medal with 3 Bronze Stars, United Nations CVC Medal
Married - Peggy (Meister) Gilray October 24, 1959, St. Mary's Church, Dunkirk
Children: Robert Gilray, Catherine (Katie) Lazar, Peter Gilray
Grandchildren: Lauren Gilray, Morgan Gilray, Hannah Gilray, Jack Gilray, Matthew Schober, Michael Schober
Military duties: The U.S. Army surgical technician performed a variety of professional, surgical and medical duties in rendering surgical care and treatment to army military personnel. Along with working in permanent army hospitals, most first-treated combat wounded were taken to MASH units. (MASH meaning mobile army surgical hospital). Most MASH units were located within a mile from actual combat zones.
Some of Gilray's duties were preparing operating rooms for surgical procedures, confirming sterilization of surgical linens, equipment and instruments. Gilray also assisted operating personnel. He prepared patients for surgery, and assisted in the administration of hypodermic injections and anesthetics. During surgeries, Gilray's duties involved handing instruments to surgeons. After surgeries he assisted in transporting patients to and from their procedures.
Cpl. Robert Leonard Gilray graduated from Dunkirk High School in June of 1947. At the time he was employed by the BF Goodrich Tire Co. He knew that he was eligible to be drafted by the Army for a four-year enlistment.
He decided it would be better to enlist because the Army was offering a two-year active and four-year reserve enlistment.
It was July 27, 1948 and now Pvt. Gilray boarded a bus with 20 local area men headed for Fort Kilmer, N.J., his new home for basic training. As the bus was loading Gilray noticed some local people that at one time or the other he had spent some time with. The other Army privates on the bus included John G. Graves, Authur W. Kern, Paul G. Imoff, William B. Frost, Joseph J. Swica, John B. Buck Jr., Ronald C. Stevens, Jack D. Benson, Jack B. Sommer, Earl F. Spencer, Bernard C. Fuller, George Sedota, Anthony C. Battaglia, and Glenn R. Brown.
Gilray was on his way to Fort Kilmer, N.J. He was assigned to the first Cavalry Division, 15 Medical Battalion. He was being trained to be a surgical technician and Army medic. His most vivid memory of basic training was learning all the latest medical procedures. On weekends he remembers all the hitchhiking to just get home with a weekend pass. In boot camp, Gilray met up with local people which made boot camp a little easier.
At this time the war was over. The U.S. was helping Europe rebuild. Gilray crossed the Atlantic many times with medical cargo and supplies. The white cliffs of Dover and the Panama Canal were his favorite places he got to see while in the military.
He was honorably discharged from Ft. Bragg, N.C. on June 30, 1950. He was happy he served his time and it was now time to start college. However, in September 1950 and his first month of college the U.S. sent troops to another country - on the other side of the world, at a place called South Korea. The letter came and Robert L. Gilray got back in his Army uniform for the second time. He held his orders which told him to report to the Korean conflict. Upon arrival in Korea, because of his medical experience received from his prior service time, he moved up to the front lines to being a medic. This brought him close to the combat zone. He was at Panmunjon, the 38th parallel, assisting fellow soldiers that were wounded in battle. He remembered vividly the bombs, the shooting, the death and the body bags, that surrounded him and his fellow soldiers on a daily basis.
When he received enough points, he was transferred out of combat. He had the choice of finishing his obligation to the Army and decided that Japan fascinated him. He chose to spend the remaining two years of his enlistment in Japan. He learned so much about the Japanese people and their customs. He recalled making raisin and rice wine. He also recalled how nice the Japanese Geisha girls treated American servicemen.
On Dec. 6, 1952, after a medical exam he learned he had contacted a disease called "whip worm" but recovered a few months after his discharge.
Gilray kept in contact with some of his old military friends. He would now and then attend his units reunions. He joined the local American Legion. His local friends were kept close.
Whenever you would talk to Robert Gilray about his war years, a smile would always appear as he talked about Japan. As for the Korea part, all he would comment on was that he served and had done his part.
Robert Leonard Gilray was born on January 29, 1930, to Leonard and Marion (Campbell) Gilray in Silver Creek. Before his first birthday, his parents moved to Dove Street in Dunkirk. He went to the Dunkirk school system where he graduated in June of 1947.
Before leaving the Dunkirk High School hallways for the last time as a student Gilray took along with him the many sports letters that he had received for track, volleyball, and football. He wore jersey number 65. Gilray was a football standout on is Dunkirk High School team of 1945. Gilray walked out of school with a smile knowing that his high school classmates christened him with the title of "dream boy."
In photos, I see Gilray spent time with a few selected friends; Jim Georgeson, Jimmy Wheeler, Joe Swica, Billy Schwartz, Paul Phillips, Freddy Long and Paul Lutz. These guys were pictured in the old OBSERVER photos I came across. They were always together, always playing a sport and always having fun.
Gilray had his mind made up when it came to serving our country. In fact I learned that special permission was given by his mother in order to join the military. He served two years honorably and was first discharged on June 30, 1950. He was happy and excited to return home in hopes of getting a nice, permanent job with good pay and benefits.
It was a good thing that he didn't spend alot of time dreaming about his new dream job, because the Korean War put an end to that. Instead of complaining and letting this get to Gilray he just packed up his bags again and did his duty.
After he completed his military duties he found employment with the New York State Police Department. After working the Batavia and Rochester barracks, he decided that the police business wasn't what he wanted to do. With the New York State Thruway on the planning board and it future certain he found employment with Thruway consultants Anthony Erdman and consulting engineers from Rochester. Gilray was the office manager in the Rochester area until the completion of the Thruway project.
After the Thruway was completed, he found employment with the Meister Contracting Co. as a job estimator until it was time for retirement. This veteran truly earned this recognition. When most of his friends had trouble finding him they would probably drive out to Tri-County Country Club and catch him on a green. If I ever wanted to see some of Gilray's accomplishments after his military obligations were fulfilled I would just go by some of the local hospitals, churches or schools Gilray helped build.
Robert L. Gilray is a soldier that did his job well. No one will ever know how many lives he may have helped and saved. There is no way of ever knowing that. We do know that he was there. He was at the place where young American men and women were getting shot at, blown up and killed. His eyes had seen war, his eyes had seen death.
We will never know how many military men that were in pain and after seeing Gilray that pain went away. We lost one great man on that Sept. 20, 2000. People in our area need to know. They need to know that Robert Leonard Gilray was a hero. And for that he is our Hero of the Week.