Gerard Jerry Gurnari is a highly decorated and retired United States Army staff sergeant, mechanic and combat engineer. He served as the 65th state commander of the AMVETS Department of Pennsylvania from 2009 to 2010. Gerard, 49, graduated from West Side Area Vocational-Technical School. He completed an apprenticeship program with the U.S. Army as a journeyman in heavy construction equipment repair. Gerard resides in Dupont with his wife, Janis. Gerard's children, Theresa Ann served in the Navy and Gerard Jr. is serving in the Air Force in Texas.
What was your time like serving with the United States Army? I am very proud to have served with the armed forces for 21 years. I was stationed in a multitude places that included many tours of duty here in the United States as well as Frankfurt, Hanau and Wiesbaden in West Germany, Seoul, Korea and the Persian Gulf. I was involved with Desert Shield, Desert Storm and the Provide Comfort Campaigns and maneuvers with my unit that included Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait and Turkey. I finished my career in Wilkes-Barre serving in the 828th Quartermaster after having served in the Active Army Reserves 365th Engineers.
What have you been involved with since retiring? I am an advisory committee representative at the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center for the Northeastern Pennsylvania-Veterans Multi-care Alliance (NEPA-VMA). I have been a legislative liaison and a board member since the start of that organization. The highlight of the organization is when a home is provided as a transition home for a veteran and his or her family. I am also an AMVETS National District II Judge Advocate and AMVETS Department of Pennsylvania Service Foundation VAVS Representative. Finally, I am post service officer for VFW Post 4909.
You seem to have a very full plate. You also mentioned the honor guard. What is your involvement there? Yes, I am the Greater Pittston AMVETS Post 189 adjutant and the honor guard team captain. I am responsible for more than 25 uniformed members who volunteer when requested to perform the Last Detail (Military Honor Guard Funeral).
There is so much for you to be proud of in your life and career. What have been some of the moments that stand out? In June I was proud to be honored with the Most Patriotic Veteran Award at the AMVET State Convention. That was a huge honor. The year before that, I was the 45th inductee into the Gino J. Merli Veterans' Center Hall of Fame. That was a really humbling experience. Any award or honor bestowed upon me reflects my commitment to other vets in need. My fellow American veterans and veteran supporters outstanding participation and support in all the programs that I am affiliated with is how we are all successful in each and every endeavor.
What inspires you to help other veterans? There was a time back in 1997 when I injured my back severely. The late Arthur Art Bartolai was the director of Luzerne County Veteran Affairs and he really reached out to me and helped me through very tough times. He took good care of me and had good people looking out for my well-being. I vowed when I could walk again that I would help others as I was helped and Art was a huge inspiration. He believed in me and gave me the kick in the butt that I needed when I was down. I have tremendous respect for the man and the people who encouraged me.
What do you like to do when you on a day when you are not involved with AMVETS? I really enjoy sports. I have been to several NASCAR races around the country. I've been to Phillies and Yankees games as well as Eagles games. I really enjoy the outdoors too. I like to go hunting and fishing when possible.
You mentioned that you took trumpet lessons for two years. How does playing that instrument fit in to your life? After taking lessons for two years, I finally became confident and recently began playing Taps at military funerals.
Do you have any future aspirations? I do have a 10-year goal. I would like to become the national commander of AMVETS. During that pursuit I will continue to serve my local community. My home is definitely where my heart is.
Do you have a favorite saying or motto you live by? I often have a set agenda that I am supposed to work towards. Sometimes things get a bit off track and I like to say, just go with it. That symbolizes the fact that myself and the people with me can work through anything.
John Gordon writes about area people for the Meet feature. Reach him at 970-7229.