The Daily Item
SUNBURY — Eugene R. “Bud” McHale, 79, of Snydertown Road, Sunbury, died on Friday, May 17, 2013, at his home of natural causes.
He was born Aug. 12, 1933, in Sunbury, the son of the late Robert C. and Martha M. (Neidig) McHale. He was married for 57 years to the former Margaret E. Robatin, of Shamokin, who preceded him in death in July 2011.
Eugene attended Sunbury High School but quit in his senior year to enter active duty with his Army National Guard unit, which had been called to federal service in September 1950 for the war in Korea.
Initially serving stateside with the 190th Field Artillery Group, he eventually entered the replacement pipeline and was sent to Korea to serve with the 25th Infantry (Tropical Lightning) Division, where he was assigned to the 27th Infantry (Wolfhound) Regiment. Having attained the rank of sergeant, he served as an infantry squad leader, earning the Combat Infantryman Badge for 30 days of sustained combat against an armed enemy of the United States.
Eugene was rated expert with the M1 Garand rifle, M2 carbine the Browning Automatic Rifle and M1911 pistol. His skill with firearms earned him a temporary duty assignment with an elite group of soldiers who served as bodyguard for Gen. Mark C. Clark when the general toured the front lines of the regiment.
Upon completion of his tour of active duty, Eugene returned to civilian life and worked for a time at Westinghouse TV and Radio. A full-time position opened at the Sunbury Armory, and he applied for and was accepted as administrative, supply and maintenance technician with his active duty rank of sergeant. While stationed at the Subury Armory, he served in several military occupational specialties and as special assistant to many unit commanders. Due to several reorganizations ordered by the National Guard Bureau, the armory was host, at one time or another, to an armored cavalry troop, an infantry company and a company of armor. While maintaining his full-time capacity as AS&MT, Eugene also was required to maintain military proficiency in his assigned duty positions, which included armored cavalry scout section leader, mortar squad leader and tank commander. He also was a principal instructor-trainer in basic soldier skills, weapons and squad-platoon tactics. His knowledge and value as a noncommissioned officer soon earned him the rank of first sergeant, a position he held for more than 20 years.
Eugene was asked to take a position at the then Infantry Headquarters in Milton as full-time operations sergeant with the rank of sergeant major. While serving in that capacity under a battalion commander, who in Eugene’s words “was a tactical visionary,” and under a capable operations officer, Eugene was able to tap into his leadership-trainer skills by helping craft meaningful and exciting training programs for the battalion. The National Guard at that time was training primarily for hostilities in Europe against the possible opposing forces of the Soviet Union and their overwhelming superiority in manpower, main battle tanks and other armor. Eugene devised a tank killing course at Fort Indiantown Gap, which was used by units of the 55th Infantry Brigade and other units of the 28th Infantry Division. Training soldiers to survive on the battlefield and seeing to their welfare was his commitment. In recognition of his fidelity and abilities, the 55th Brigade commander recommended him for appointment to command sergeant major. The Secretary of the Army confirmed his appointment on May 7, 1982.
Recognizing he had shortchanged his formal education, Eugene completed high school through the GED system and continued his educational progress by attending many military schools.
Following a heart attack and complications in late 1983, Eugene was required to retire from the service he loved so much. During his 34 year career, CSM McHale received numerous awards and decorations, among them the Combat Infantryman Badge, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Korean Service Medal with two battle stars, United Nations Service Medal, Humanitarian Award, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Korean Presidential Unit Citation and many state awards and citations.
After a prolonged period of rehabilitation and idleness, he decided to challenge himself again. At age 60, he entered into the martial arts. For 10 years, he studied and practiced the Japanese martial style of Ninjutsu and the nine schools of the Bujinkin, attaining the rank of second-degree black belt.
He was a member of American Legion Post 201, 40 and 8 Voiture 13, Sunbury Social Club and Keystone Fish & Game and was a benefactor member of the National Rifle Association.
Eugene is survived by son, Michael, Michael’s wife, Judy, daughter, Mary McCreary, Mary’s husband, Jeff, and two grandsons, Gregory and Gary McCreary, all of Sunbury; and his best friend, a Boxer named Bandit.
There will be no viewing as Eugene requested immediate cremation. His ashes will be interred in Orchard Hills Cemetery, Shamokin Dam. A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 9 a.m. Tuesday in St. Monica Church, Sunbury with the Rev. Joseph Gotwalt as celebrant.
He wanted no flowers, no tribute, no gravesite ceremony. His family is honoring those wishes.
Arrangements are by the Jerre Wirt Blank Funeral Home, 395 State St., Sunbury.