BRIDGEPORT, Ohio (WTRF) – He’s a veteran, but he’s also the owner of multiple businesses and one of the newest members of the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame.
John J. Callarik was surprised with that honor in October.
The World War II veteran said he’s thankful and that at 95-years-old he has no plans of slowing down.
It was an honor to go and serve my country.John J. Callarik, Veteran
In 1944, Callarik’s life changed when he went from working in Bridgeport, Ohio in a family of eight siblings to being drafted into the U.S. Army
It’s hard to forget and it’s hard to talk about it. It brings tears to my eyes sometimes thinking about it.John J. Callarik, Veteran
He served in Germany and was part of the Battle of the Bulge. While Callarik doesn’t share much about his two years fighting in the country, there is one story he will tell with vivid detail.
One place we was up on laying on the hillside like. There was an old farmhouse up there. Well, we was up there, bullets flying back and forth. I was behind the pillar and they was shooting at me. I was shooting back. Here comes a young lady out of that farmhouse and I seen her and I said ‘get back in there, get back in there!’. Well, I had to move because they know where I’m at, you know, and I moved and I never seen that young lady anymore and I think about that a lot of times.John J. Callarik, Veteran
As a Private First Class Callarik had a lot of duties overseas, including as a truck driver and heavy machine gunner. He credits his time working on the farm for giving him the skills to get through.
I was skilled at so many things from experience back home. They would put me in a lot of places they didn’t put other people because I could drive a truck. I wasn’t afraid to do this. I wasn’t afraid to work and I was a thinker also and action is with me. The way I looked at things, you never lose. You don’t quit. There’s always a way and that’s the way I was over there.John J. Callarik, Veteran
After being honorably discharged, Callarik returned home to Bridgeport and never left.
I hate war. I don’t want to see that happen again, but it’s something we had to do. We had to do it and I got involved in it, but it turned out I was a lucky one to get back. When I think about them and look at them people that I fought the battle in that didn’t get back it’s a shame.John J. Callarik, Veteran
For his service, Callarik was awarded the EAME (European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal) Theatre Medal, three Bronze Stars, Army of Occupation Medal, the Good Conduct Medal and the Victory Medal World War II
He was married for 46 years to his wife Della and raised a family of four children, several grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.
Callarik also operates six businesses and served as the Mayor of Bridgeport for 16 years.
He said to this day when anyone thanks him for his service, he thinks about those young men he served with who never made it home.
You think about these young people that never got back. I was one of the lucky ones. I close my eyes and I can face them. It’d be nice if they were here today. When people come up to me and thank me, to me thanks should go to the people not here.John J. Callarik, Veteran
Callarik was one of 20 heroes inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame this year.