MONROE COUNTY, Ohio (WTRF) – More than 16 million American men and women served in the military in World War II. About 839,000 of them were from Ohio. 1,800 from Monroe County.
Now, only three of them are left, the last of the “Greatest Generation” from the county.
George Cook. Ray Norris. Glen Stalder.
Separate branches, and different jobs, but all three men bonded by the sacrifices they made for their country.
I’m proud to serve my country anytime.George Cook, World War II Veteran
For George Cook it was the Navy. He enlisted and recalls all his buddies had already gone into the service at that time.
I was on landing crafts. LCMs LCDTs and PRs and stuff like that. I was amphibious.George Cook, World War II Veteran
He did all that aboard the USS Marquette; traveling more than 32,000 miles across all seven seas and seven continents.
I had a lot of miles. Went around the world, cross the equator twice. I couldn’t tell you all the places I’ve been.George Cook, World War II Veteran
Cook left for home the day his ship came back into port in the United States. He said he hadn’t heard from his family for 11-months and wanted to make sure they were doing alright.
Just months ago, his family received his ribbons from the Pacific Theater because Cook left to early to receive them all those years ago.
They said they was gonna discharge me, so I took out the door. I didn’t wait for the rewards.George Cook, World War II Veteran
Cook was discharged as a Seaman 1st Class.
Ray Norris was drafted into the Army while still in high school.
On December 14th I got on the big ship. 36,000 guys on that ship. Go on the 14th and the 20th we landed in Scotland.Ray Norris, World War II Veteran
As part of a replacement company, he was never far from combat in France, Belgium and Germany. Norris was also part of Battle of the Bulge.
We took care of guys. We took them up to the battlefield. Also, we took the dead people out to the cemeteries in Belgium.Ray Norris, World War II Veteran
When his service finally came to an end, Norris remembers a rough and long journey home.
Glen Stalder was also called by the Army to serve, spending his years as a infantryman.
Foot soldier, mostly guard duty and so fourth.Glen Stalder, World War II Veteran
He recalls that description of his jobs while stationed in Japan. He spend the winter in part of the country where Stalder said it “didn’t do anything but snow”.
I was in the 77th Infantry there. They deactivated in March of 1946. Then I ended up in Tokyo with the 1st Cavalry Division.Glen Stalder, World War II Veteran
All three men were strangers during the war, never crossing paths. While they were separate, there’s something that changed the course of all their enlistments; the dropping of the Atomic Bomb.
I was just getting ready to go to Japan when they dropped it, so it kept me from making that trip.George Cook, World War II Veteran
I was headed there. Ended up I didn’t get there since they dropped the bomb. They turned around and sent us to Australia.Ray Norris, World War II Veteran
I was still at Camp Parker, Alabama when they dropped it, but I ended up in Japan.Glen Stalder, World War II Veteran
As unique as each experience was, there’s one thing that still joins them together; pride in country and in service.
I am proud of it. I am, yes I am.Ray Norris, World War II Veteran
I’d do it over.Glen Stalder, World War II Veteran
I would too.George Cook, World War II Veteran
After the Navy, Cook came home and finished his senior year of high school and eventually had a career as a heavy equipment operator. He was married to his wife for 74-years before she passed away and they have three children together.
Norris came home from the Army and also finished his education, since he left at just 18-years-old. He got married and has seven children.
Stalder farmed with his father when he returned to Ohio and then eventually bought the farm. He also worked as a brick layer for a while. His family is a big one. Stalder has six children, 16-grand children and 30 great-grand children.
George Cook is now 96-years-old. Ray Norris is 98. Glen Stalder just turned 101-years-young.
Thank you to the American Legion Post in Woodsfield for honoring these three men with a celebration the day 7News spoke to them.