Gene loved farm life where he enjoyed fishing, running and camping in the woods. The family picnic grove was one of his favorite spots where many friends and family members would gather for corn fests and celebrations.
In 1956, after the untimely death of his father, Gene and his immediate family re-located
in northern California. They lived in Rodeo and later Crockett to be close to his maternal grandparents, John and
Ola Griffin and uncle John Griffin and his wife Polly. Gene attended Carquinez Grammar School and
John Swett Union High School in Crockett and was a member of the high school football team, earning his letter.
In his third year of high school, the family moved to Concord, California settling on the 2.5 acre farm on Joan Avenue along with his grandparents and uncle John's family (now including their young son, Gerry).
Gene was busy with many activities like helping his grandparents remodel their retirement home, riding "Bones" (his onrey horse) to building hot-rods in the family garage.
He was a member of the 4th graduating class of Clayton Valley High School June 13, 1963.
Uncle Sam called and Gene answered, enlisting in the United States Army in October 1965. He served his country for two tours of duty in Vietnam starting in the Army Engineers and soon requesting transfer to the 170th Attack Helicopter Company stationed at Camp Holloway near Pleiku, Republic of Vietnam. It was there he rose to the position of Buccaneer Gunner (gunny) . He explained his transfer simply, "...you were always getting shot at and while driving a truck I had to use one hand on the wheel.
I wanted to use BOTH hands to shoot back!" He saw plenty of action for those 18 months. After returning from "work" one day, 26 bullet holes were counted in the skin of the ship around Gene's door. The 170th was the only unit permanently attached to the Army Special Forces kill teams which were engaged in FOB2 (Forward Observation Base) activity "over the fence" in Cambodia and Laos. The Bucs would fly cover for the troop transport choppers (slicks) that would drop off and retrieve small teams (5-8 men) in the dense (triple canopy) jungle where they would report on enemy troop movements. They were usually prevented from landing because of the dense growth and would lower and retrieve their "cargo" onto the ground by long ropes. It was on these missions that the Buc crews were not allowed to carry identification (including dog tags), photos, etc. They were doing things that would be officially denied by the government for years to come. Letters from the field.
Gene standing by his door (left side of chopper - no shirt).
(Thanks to Sgt. Jimmy Orr aka JR. for above picture.)
Gene's gunship (Buc 4) was armed with, rockets, mini-guns, cannon, whatever would take out the most insurgents and provide the best cover fire for the slicks. One of his favorite pieces of personal protection was his Winchester 12 ga. pump.
"Always enjoyed it when Gene flew in my crew. He was always ready to fire, and was accurate. Nothing was more important. Shoot first, shoot straight, shoot often." Roger Weaver - Buc 3
Sitting in the "hot seat" during repairs.
Wounded in action, and the recipient of several combat medals, Gene received an honorable discharge with the rank of E5 (Sergeant) on October 27, 1971.
Gene became an active member of the Martinez, California Volunteer Fire Department.
He liked Alan Jackson, Granny's peach cobbler, Ronald Reagan and American automobiles.
He was father of three beautiful daughters, Shannon, Casey and Erin and two grandchildren, Anthony and Devyn. Zach, his dog and loyal friend, who was with him until the end, was taken by friends of Gene's choice.
Gene is survived by his brothers Ken and Bill.
High on a hill overlooking the Diablo Valley rests a brave patriot and greatly loved fallen hero. Every patriotic American owes a debt to him and those like him. Our freedoms are more secure because of his service.
May God rest his soul.
[nephew] is now the owner of Gene's '55)
(click on chopper for page of Gene's unit - 170th AHC)
(comments to page designer)