100-year-old Utah WWII vet inspires three generations of family to serve in military

Nov 10, 2021, 6:30 PM | Updated: Nov 11, 2021, 7:42 am

FARMINGTON, Utah – As Utah prepared to honor its veterans this week, a 100-year-old veteran humbly recalled his time in World War II and Korea.

In a quiet Farmington neighborhood, you can find Wallace Gatrell who is quiet about his honors.

“It’s just not correct to brag about yourself,” the centenarian said. Wallace Gatrell is one of the last surviving World War II veterans in Utah.

“President Roosevelt federalized the Nation Guard and put us all on active duty,” he recalled.

He and his wife Ruth had eight children, all while he continued his work in the army. He fought in Korea where some shrapnel injured him but he kept fighting. The military awarded him a purple heart.

“People were shooting at you and of course you shot back,” he said.

Garth Gatrell said his dad was in the service for more than 30 years. He is proud of him for inspiring generations of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to serve.

“I figure over 125 years of active-duty service between family members,” Gatrell said.

100-year-old Wallace Gatrell (KSL TV) Garth Gatrell (KSL TV) Wallace was 18-years old when he enlisted in the Army. (Used by permission Wallace Gatrell)

As a veteran himself, Gatrell said he learned a valuable lesson while in Berlin before the wall came down. “If they don’t want you to leave, you can’t. And that is what freedom is, is to be able to do what you want.”

His dad agreed with him. For a quiet man, Wallace shared advice with the younger generation.

“Stay true to yourself and your upbringing. Remember what your parents taught you. And always remember the country you belong to.”

The University of Utah’s 24th Annual Veterans Day Commemoration will recognize Wallace Gatrell and eleven other Utah veterans during a full military dress ceremony Thursday. The ceremony begins at 9 a.m. It’s just one of several Veteran’s Day events planned around Utah.


Several cannon blanks will fire outside the Union Building: three at approximately 9 a.m., one at 11 a.m., and a 21-cannon salute at approximately 11:45 a.m. as part of the formal program.

The bagpipe procession from the Marriott Library will begin at 10:30 a.m. and the commemoration ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. in the Union Ballroom. The event is open and free to the public.

Honorees from the 2020 cohort have also been invited to attend this in-person event since the pandemic delayed the ceremony last year.

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100-year-old Utah WWII vet inspires three generations of family to serve in military