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100-year-old Utah-born veteran to be inducted into honorary military society

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FARMINGTON, Utah – Lt. Col. Wallace Bassett Gatrell poses while still an enlisted Soldier at Camp San Luis Obispo, Calif. Gatrell celebrated his 100th Birthday Jan. 25, 2021. He has lived through 20 U.S. presidents, served through World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars, and into the Cold War, serving a 34-year career in the military. (Courtesy photo)

BLUFFDALE, Utah (ABC4) – Wallace Bassett Gatrell, a Utah-born WWII veteran who celebrated his 100th birthday in January, will receive a special honor this weekend.

Retired Lt. Col. Gatrell, who hit the century mark of life on Jan. 25, will be inducted into the Honorable Order of Saint Barbara, an honorary military society of the United States Field Artillery on Saturday night in a ceremony at Camp Williams in Bluffdale.  

In a press release, Utah National Guard battalion commander Lt. Col. Brett Anderson, of the brigade which will honor Gatrell, stated his excitement at inducting Gatrell into the society. 

“It’s a rare opportunity to connect this generation of Soldiers with someone who represented their organization over 80 years ago,” says Anderson. “After being a part of this event, I think many of us will take an extra moment to reflect the next time we put on this uniform.” 

According to an announcement for the induction ceremony, the order “links artillerymen of the past and present in a brotherhood of professionalism, selfless service, and sacrifice symbolized by Saint Barbara.” 

An ancient legend from the Roman Empire tells the story of Saint Barbara as the protector of danger from explosions, linking her as the sainted patroness of military working with artillery. 

Born in Salt Lake City in 1921, Gatrell was a member of the ROTC while attending West High School. Shortly after joining the Utah National Guard as a student at the University of Utah, his unit was called into duty and eventually called to deployment in the Philippines. While on the boat to the Philippines, Gatrell’s transport turned around due to the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Later that month, his unit arrived in Hawaii to serve as reinforcements against any possible additional strikes. 

Gatrell’s campaign in World War II also included time spent in the Philippines and Okinawa. He would later serve in the Korean War and earned several military decorations, including a Purple Heart, a Silver Star, and two awards of the Bronze Star. He was honored with the distinctions after rescuing a fellow soldier while also suffering from wounds of his own. 

Later assignments with the military included stops in Colorado, Alaska, Japan, Germany, and Virginia before making his retirement in Utah. Using his accounting degree, which he earned in the military, he worked in many financial roles after his days in combat were over. 

From the time Gatrell retired in 1972, he had spent over 30 years as a serviceman all over the world. 

In a story by the Utah National Guard commemorating his 100th birthday on Jan. 25, Gatrell flashed a bit of humor when giving his secret to making it to the milestone. 

“Waking up one more time than you go to bed, and doing it for 100 years,” he shared. 

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