PROFILE OF A MUSEUM VOLUNTEER
Michael Gavrilis was born in Fresno, California on October 5, 1949, the second of four sons born to George and Tula Gavrilis of Greek heritage. George was a General Maintenance man for 35 years at Roma Winery, later bought out by Schenley istillers. Tula was a housewife. They raised their family on 1 1/2 acres about 3 miles west of highway 99 in Fresno, California. They had a large vegetable garden and a family orchard consisting of numerous fruit and nut trees. The family raised their own chickens, rabbits, pigeons, pheasants, quails and peacocks, and made their own wine abd vinegar.
Michael graduated from Central Union High school in Fresno in 1967, where he ran cross country and played first base in baseball. He also played trumpet in the orchestra and sang in the choir. His elective classes were in business. Michael enrolled at Fresno City College and earned an Associate of Science Degree in Business in 1969. During those college years he developed a hobby of studying the stock market and did a small amount of investing.
The end of 1969 was the start of the lottery for the draft. Michaelís birthdate was picked 24th, so on April 16, 1970, he reported to Fort Ord in California for Basic Training. Upon completion as a PF2 he was assigned to Advanced Infantry Training. Michael completed this training and while in formation of approximately 200 soldiers, was informed he was one of only 10 being promoted to PF3.
Upon deployment to Viet Nam Michael was assigned to the 4th Infantry Division, and the first day on the front lines, he was helicoptered into a Forward Artillery Base which just before dark received 2 mortar rounds as target markings; one on each side of the base . The next morning 4 Mortar rounds hit the base, resulting in many KIA and WIAs. Michael was immediately made aware of the realities of war. The next day a F4 Phantom dropped Napalm on a nearby hill in response. His unit received the unforgettable assignment to check out the results. After being in the jungle for about a month straight, the 4th infantry Division was withdrawn from Viet Nam and Michael was reassigned to the Americal Unit (23rd) Infantry. This unit was different. 8 days out in the front lines and 2 days in the rear; having specific assignments each time out. He was immediately assigned to be trained to set up the Claymore Mines each night. 4 Claymore trip wire mines were set to protect them as they slept, along with 4 M60 machine gun posts, guarding in shifts. After about 2 months the man who trained Michael was blown up disarming one of those Claymore mines. Michael was assigned to take over his position, and received a promotion to SP4. There were numerous firefights, boobytraps and a mortar attack during this time, and on December 13, 1970, Michael was shot.
While working near the border of Laos he was shot with an AK 47 by the South Viet Nam Army (Friendly Fire). While in the prone position the bullet struck the lower left leg just below the knee . After surgery and at the hospital in Viet Nam for three days, Michael was sent to Camp Zama in Japan for 17 Days. He then was flown to Travis Air Force Base and taken to Ford Ord Army hospital where he was informed he was paralyzed below the left knee with a 50-50 chance of the nerve growing back. Michael was discharged with a 40% Disability Retirement on July 23, 1971. Upon discharge he used a prosthetic device to pull up his foot, allowing him to walk.
After a couple months Michael returned to college at Fresno State University, eventually getting feeling back in his lower left leg. He disposed of the prosthetic device and started walking and running over the next few months. In 1975 Michael graduated from California State University earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business (The University had changed its name during his time there.) He worked at the IRS in Fresno for 4 years where he met his wife Patricia. They didnít date until he changed jobs in 1979 to AAA insurance as an inside claims adjustor, then an outside vehicle inspector. They married three years later in 1982. In 1989 their daughter Michelle was born. After 20 years Michael retired from AAA Insurance. He then worked at Foxwood Autobody as a vehicle repair estimator and foreman until retiring in 2007. Since 2000 Michael has volunteered at Fresno State for the Dugout Club; a support group for the baseball team. In October of 2017 he began volunteering at the Veterans Memorial Museum as a docent.