Sentinel Photo/LEAH WILLIAMS
Dr. Gerhard Malcharek and his wife Aileen address the crowd who gathered for his special recognition on July 5, 2015, at Irvington City Park. The retired dentist was honored for his service during both World War II and the Korean War.
Malcharek receives state honors
BY LEAH WILLIAMS
Sentinel News Staff
IRVINGTON — Dr. Gerhard Malcharek was recognized in a special ceremony Sunday for his unique service.
State Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville, and Irvington Village President Gera Sims presented the retired dentist with several honors, including a state house resolution detailing his story, an American flag flown in Springfield and a license plate.
Meier said he began talking to Secretary of State Jesse White in January about honoring Malcharek, who was both a prisoner of war during World War II and a Korean War veteran.
“Irvington has been lucky to have him,” Meier said.
Born in 1931 in what was then known as Czechoslovakia, Malcharek was taken away from his family at 13 years of age and forced to join the German army. He worked as a tank driver during WWII, and after an injury, he was forced into a Soviet prisoner of war camp. After his release in 1947, Malcharek and his family immigrated to Germany but they had to live in exile.
While in exile, Malcharek could not fulfill his childhood dream of becoming a dentist because he was not able to receive the education. After an American soldier friend told him about available education opportunities in the U.S., Malcharek migrated to America.
He joined the U.S. Army within 30 days of arriving here and was quickly called to serve in Korea as a combat engineer. He served two tours in Korea and received a Purple Heart before retiring as a colonel.
Once he returned stateside, Malcharek became a dentist. He held a practice in Irvington. He also took care of nearly 700 Murray Center residents as the only dentist.
Malcharek retired from his dentistry practice in 1992.
After receiving his honors, Malcharek recounted some of his stories in the service. He said he had a few near death experiences. The first happened when he was in the POW camp. He was forced into a line and every 10th prisoner was marked for execution.
“[The soldier marking the prisoners] looked right at me and then marked the guy next to me with a paintbrush,” he said.
The next story happened while he was on tour in Korea when he tried to rescue a fellow soldier from enemy fire. Malcharek was hit with shrapnel and took cover until another soldier found him barely conscience and barely alive.
“He had come back through looking for me four different times,” he said.
Both Malcharek and his wife Aileen said they were surprised when they learned about the public ceremony to honor him.
“I never thought I was doing anything when I was doing it,” Malcharek said.
During his time in the U.S. Army, Malcharek spoke fondly of the combat camaraderie among fellow soldiers.
“War is hell,” he said. “I did it for the soldier next to me and the other soldier beside me, so that way, if I was in trouble, I would have them to help me out. Everyone was doing their part. We were fighting together.”
Looking back on his time in the service and his life as a public servant, Malcharek said he always took it one day at a time.
“When I think of how old I am, I thought I would never make it,” he said. “But here I am.”
State Rep. harlie Meier gives Dr. Gerhard Malcharek state recognition for his time as a soldier during World War II and the Korean War. “When I think of how old I am, I thought I would never make it,” Malcharek said. “But here I am.”
War is hell. I did it for the soldier next to me and the other soldier beside me, so that way, if I was in trouble, I would have them to help me out. Everyone was doing their part. We were fighting together.
Dr. Gerhard Malcharek