Callarik Inducted Into Ohio Veterans Hall Of Fame
BRIDGEPORT — John Callarik, a World War II veteran, is a new member of the Ohio Department of Veterans Services’ Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame Class of 2021.
The induction ceremony was held Oct. 18 in Columbus with Gov. Mike DeWine taking part in honoring Callarik and 19 other veterans from across the state.
Callarik, 95, served in the U.S. Army for two years, mostly in Germany and during Adolf Hitler’s counter-offensive called “the Battle of the Bulge.” Callarik said it felt good to be recognized by the governor and so many people during the ceremony. He received two different plaques, a medal, a pin and a special ball cap for the occasion.
Callarik said he tends not to talk much about what happened during the war, but he often thinks of the men he served with, especially those who did not make it home. According to the Army Center of Military History, more than 75,000 American soldiers died during the battle, and between 80,000 and 100,000 Germans soldiers died.
“I can picture how they look, and I can see the whole battle and where they fell beside me,” Callarik said of his fellow soldiers.
One memory he shared happened during the battle. He was taking cover behind a pillar when a woman appeared.
“She came out of her farmhouse and I told her to get back in the house and lay on the floor,” he said, noting bullets were whizzing by from both armies.
Callarik said he does not remember serving with any other soldiers from the Bridgeport area, but he made a lot of friends during his service.
“They were a bunch of good guys,” he noted.
Callarik said when he wears his WWII veteran ball cap and people thank him for his service, he feels as though he is passing on the honor to all of his friends who died in the war, too.
The Hall of Fame honors veterans not only for their service while in the military, but for their post-service accomplishments and achievements as well.
Callarik started working at a young age on his family’s farm in Kirkwood Heights and later as a teen hauling coal with a horse and wagon for Y&O Coal. After he exited the Army, he came back home to Bridgeport and had a variety of businesses, including a produce stand and cab company.
Then in 1947, he started JJC & Sons Excavating, a business he still operates today.
Callarik later began building his Chapter Square businesses, including a laundromat, car wash, tanning salon and more that he still owns and runs.
Callarik served on Bridgeport Exempted Village Board of Education as its president for 14 years in the past and was mayor of the village of Bridgeport for 16 years.
During his time of public service, he used his skills and equipment to complete many projects for the school district and village.
Callarik was the oldest veteran to be inducted into this year’s hall of fame class. The medals he received from his military service include the European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, a Theatre Ribbon with three Bronze stars, Army of Occupation Medal, Good Conduct Medal and the Victory Medal World War II.
He was drafted into service in 1944 and was honorably discharged May 12, 1946. Callarik said he feels proud that he served his country, but also “lucky” to have come home alive from the war.