This story is part of a series entitled "Veterans of CNY." Each week, Eagle Newspapers will profile a local veteran, one from each of the 15 communities we cover.
On Robert W. Walker's lap sits a three-ringed binder, bursting with pages of faded sepia-toned photographs, articles and awards. The hat he wears, decorated in different United States Navy pins, reads "USS-LSM-36, WWII, US Navy."
To his collared shirt he has pinned a number of colorful ribbons and medals. And one medal -- purple -- hangs over his heart.
He's proud of his accomplishments, but there's a distant, sad look in his eyes as he tells his story. Although it's been over six decades since he's been in the service, the binder continues to remind him of life at sea during World War II.
"I haven't slept for three days since you called," he says as he opens the scrapbook. "And let me tell you why."
An enlisted man
Walker grew up in Chemung County, N.Y., herding and driving horses. He had no schooling; by age 6 he was working to help his family pay the bills. At 13 years old, he was milking 21 cows daily both morning and night, until a conversation with his grandmother convinced him to leave New York and do something worthwhile with his life.
Two days shy of turning 18, Walker enlisted into the United States Navy on Oct. 12, 1943. "I was just a kid when I went in, and kids do all sorts of things," he said.
He trained in Sampson, N.Y. and Bainbridge, Md. In Little Creek, Va. he had his amphibious training, where he learned to fight both on land and sea. By July 20, 1944 Walker was deployed overseas on the USS-LSM 36 to the south pacific for World War II.