Natasha Gural's picture

    Remembering An Unlikely Soldier

    My father, Michael William “Brother Mike” Gural, was a pacifist humanist. But being born into abject poverty to factory worker immigrant parents in Newark, NJ., in 1926, he enlisted as a Medical Administrative Corps (MAC) Officer with Army Serial #12102416 at Ft. Dix New Jersey in 1943, “for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law.” .[1] He did it to send money back to his parents, so they could escape the crime-ridden, downtrodden neighborhood, where the family lived in a single-room efficiency above a rowdy saloon. One of his older brothers died as a child at the former NY Marine Hospital, known solely as the “Quarantine,” in Staten Island, where we was sent after a tragic injury. My paternal grandparents, who died before I was born, had no access to health insurance and no money for medical care. The dreaded Quarantine was the only option. They didn’t have a car, and couldn’t afford to travel from New Jersey to Staten Island to visit him. My father attempted to send them enough money to cover medical bills while he was serving overseas.

    My father's complete dossier was turned to ash in the National Personnel Records Center fire of 1973, sometimes called the 1973 National Archives fire, that destroyed as many as 18 million official military personnel records at the United States National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in the St. Louis suburb, Overland, Missouri. As a result, there is no digital evidence of his service before and during the start of the Korean War, nor his service in the South West Pacific theatre. I vividly recall him telling me about a typhoon (though I don’t think it was the Pacific Typhoon, of Dec. 18, 1944) while he was on a ship as a Radio Sergeant working in the kitchen. The crew was taking a recreational swim, and my father, a former competitive swimmer, was strong enough to pull himself and others out of the tumultuous waters.

    His involvement in D-Day, however, is recorded at The National WWII Museum, formerly known as the D-Day Museum, in New Orleans. Further tangible proof is found on a plaque in the house my father built in 1966, and where my mother has lived since they married in 1969. (My father died on June 21, 2002, of cancer.)

    I’m unsure if my mother has any pictures of my father in a military uniform. He embraced his identity as a scholar and a professor, and he always noted that Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the G.I. Bill, helped to lift him dire poverty.

    1. Online Military Records in AAD | National Archives


    Thanks for this, Natasha.

    Thank you for reading it!

    I never knew this about Brother Mike, thank you for sharing his military service with us. He was a man who I imagine would have been not only a strong physical and mental resource to his team, but also a spiritual resource, as he was always so uplifting and gentle in spirit. 

    Latest Comments