PROFILE: Meet (ret.) lt. Colonel Jerry Orr Boy Scouts of America, Advisory Board Member


LAWTON – Just about four months shy of his 85th birthday, Jerry Orr is still very active and needs to check his calendar to work in an interview for this article.

  • Jerry Orr stands near a window in his home office that is filled with photos and memorabilia. The Eagle statue is the Major General Douglas O. Dollar Distinguished Service Award for distinguished community service and citizenship that Jerry received in 2013.

LAWTON – Just about four months shy of his 85th birthday, Jerry Orr is still very active and needs to check his calendar to work in an interview for this article.

After several minutes of looking at dates and times and mentioning out loud different commitments and appointments, he sees a time that will work before a noon luncheon he is scheduled to attend. “I think I’m ready to start slowing down,” he says, “but my friends won’t let me.” The morning of the interview he answers his door still cutting a sharp image in a red polo shirt emblazoned with the logo of the 1st Battalion, 19th Field Artillery War Eagles. His dog, Peaches, answers the door with him and barks with excitement. She is a white Shih Tzu and full of energy, with a lot to say.

“Peaches is a rescue dog,” Orr says. “There were some people at Fort Sill who had to leave, and she needed a home. She’s a good dog and I need her around the house.” Even after he settles into a big, brown, comfy-looking chair, Peaches isn’t ready to settle down. She looks disappointed when Orr tells her a few times to lie down. She doesn’t go far, though, and seems to wait for an opportunity to join in on the conversation again. Not surprisingly, Orr struggles a bit to talk about himself. Throughout the interview, the conversation always drifts to the people he cares deeply about and their contribution to anything he was or is involved in. “Whatever I’ve done, the people around me are the ones who made me look good,” he says with emotion in his voice. “Yes, I was a leader, but I am truly blessed with family and friends and the people I have served with. It’s all them.”


Orr was almost a Christmas present for his parents Ike and Virginia Orr, as he was born Dec. 27, 1934. He was born in Shreveport, La., and attended school from elementary through college there. “Most of my father’s family was out of east Texas. Dad had worked on a farm with his dad and had an eighth-grade education. He wanted to do something different, so he became a printer - learned to set type back in the hot metal days. “He moved to Shreveport and met my mom,” Orr said.

“He was the manager of the printing department of Commercial National Bank.” Orr said his parents divorced when he was about five or six years old. In May of 1956, Orr was photographed with his father as Ike pinned a second lieutenant bar on his son’s shirt collar. The cutline in the May 15, 1956, edition of The Shreveport Times said Orr was one of 21 seniors in the Army ROTC battalion at Centenary College to receive a commission at the final review ceremony. “Dad’s name was actually Isaac Newton, but he went by Ike or I.N. Why would someone give that name?” Orr asked. His hand gesture indicated he didn’t know.


At C. E. Byrd High School, Orr enjoyed playing football and baseball. In college, he played junior varsity basketball. “Our college junior varsity basketball team played the high school team. I scored 38 points in that game. The high school coach came up to me and said, “Why didn’t you ever tell me you could play basketball?’ Orr’s love for sports led him to seek a degree in physical education. “I wanted to be a coach. I earned my degree and I was all set to do that. But I had taken ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) in high school and college. My buddies and I had decided to try it for six months. It turned into two years and I was commissioned into the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant,” he said.

After graduating college in 1957, Orr was sent to Fort Sill for training in the field artillery officer basic course. In 1958, he was deployed to Korea and served as a platoon leader and forward observer with the 1st Battalion, 19th Field Artillery. His battalion was positioned in the DMZ, which was a fortified buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea. “I was a forward observer on the DMZ. There had been a ceasefire, but my first night in the bunker I hear gunfire.

“I asked, ‘Are they shooting at us?’ They said, ‘Yes, sometimes they do that.’ “‘With real bullets?’ I asked.” Orr laughed at the memory. “But, you know, I fell in love with the military in Korea. I was a reserve officer. It was the challenge as a leader and working with people that made me fall in love with the military. I was sworn in as a regular Army officer about three or four years later,” he said. When Orr returned to Fort Sill after his tour in Korea, he was assigned to the 1st Missile Brigade and commanded a battery.


Back at Fort Sill, Orr said he began dating a lady from Lawton. “I called my dad one day and told him that I really loved her. Dad said that if I was in love like that, I should marry her,” he said. Orr married Jean Shanklin on Sept. 14, 1963. In the next day’s edition of The Lawton Constitution, there was a front-page photo of Jerry and his new bride standing in their “get-away” car - a full-track vehicle that was usually used as part of the Pershing Missile’s launching complex. It had a “Just Married” sign on the front of it and on the side was painted: “Newlyweds ... Hot Springs or bust.”

Constitution staff writer Bill Chaze wrote the front-page article titled: “After The Wedding ... The Couple Left On a Missile Vehicle.” Part of the article read, “The unknowing Captain and his new bride have whisked away in a full-track vehicle usually used as part of the Pershing Missile’s launching complex. Captain Orr is Motor Officer of the 1st Missile Battalion, 81st Artillery, which is scheduled for designation in late October for work with the Pershing Missile.”

It goes on to say that it was part of Orr’s job as Motor Officer to keep tabs on the battalion vehicles. Jean, who passed away on Jan. 28, 2010, was the daughter of Jack and Virginia Shanklin of Lawton. She was a 1962 graduate of Lawton High School. She attended Cameron and in 1986 was part of the first class at the University of Oklahoma Law School to earn a paralegal degree. She worked as a paralegal with Ashton, Ashton, Wisener, and Munkacsy. The couple have two children, Stacy Bond, and Patrick Orr and four grandchildren. At the time of Jean’s passing, they had been married for 47 years.

“I lost my wife almost 10 years ago,” Orr says, still in the big, brown comfy-looking chair in the living room where he was telling his life story. “That was tough. That wasn’t supposed to happen. She was 10 years younger than me. Jean was a wonderful wife and an incredible Army wife,” he said. “She was an amazing woman.”


After returning from South Korea and before marrying Jean, Orr served as an Aide-DeCamp to Major General Bert Spivey. “I loved that assignment. We were part of the Joint Strategic Targeting Agency at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. It was a joint effort with the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force. I flew all over the world,” Orr said. He then came back to Oklahoma to command a Little John artillery rocket unit at Fort Sill. In 1963, the year he was married, he deployed to Ger- many as a Battery Commander with a Pershing Missile Battalion. In 1968, Orr was sent to Vietnam after completing the Advanced Field Artillery Course and served as the Battalion Operations Officer and interim Battalion Commander.

“Vietnam was a hell of an experience,” he said. “I served with the 4th Infantry Division, 2nd Battalion, 9th Artillery in the A Shau Valley. We were right on the Cambodian border. Historical documents show that the A Shau Valley was a vital corridor for moving military supplies from the Ho Chi Minh Trail and was used as a staging area for numerous attacks. “I was wounded twice. I got shrapnel in a leg and also shrapnel in an arm,” Orr said. “It was from Vietnam that I was awarded the Soldier’s Medal for saving a life in combat. I also received two Bronze Stars for Valor and two Purple Hearts.

“It was in the LZ (landing zones) and a bunker caught on fire. They were trying to destroy a cannon we had. I ran in and pulled out two guys. “I was lucky. I don’t know - you do things. It’s not that you’re brave - you do things. I know that God has been with me. He has taken care of me,” Orr said. “I talked to God and said, ‘You didn’t take me. I hope I’m doing what you meant for me to do.’”


Orr served a year in Vietnam before returning to Oklahoma in 1969. “It was the greatest feeling in the world being back home. The reunion with family and friends - there are no words to describe it,” he said. “And the men I served with ... I’m humbled by my relationships with my soldiers. We hosted two reunions through the years, but I’m slowing down a bit now.” After a pause, Orr said, “Respect is something you earn. You don’t buy it.”


Orr’s military career didn’t end after Vietnam. He went to Kansas and graduated from the Command and General Staff College and also served at the Pentagon in a research and development office. It was in Washington, D.C., that Orr said he volunteered with several ladies to be a Girl Scout Troop leader. “I was involved in my son’s activities and Boy Scouts and I thought I needed to do the same thing for my daughter,” Orr said. In 1979, after being stationed at Fort Riley, Kan., Orr said he returned to Fort Sill to retire. “I had a good Army career. I was blessed,” he said.


Trying to switch gears into a new career was a little challenging for Orr after the military. “I went to work as a stockbroker with PaineWebber. I made more money than ever in my life and hated it,” he said. “People lost money and I didn’t like it. “Then I went into partnership on the Chi-Chi’s restaurant here. I managed it for about two years and my partner and I had a falling out. “Then we went to Colorado for about 10 years. I tried another partnership in a business for about three years and it didn’t pan out,” he said.

Orr began working with the Boy Scouts in Colorado and found his niche. After seven years working with the organization, the Orr’s moved back to Lawton and he began working as a District Executive with the Last Frontier Council Black Beaver District. “There’s nothing better or more satisfying than making a difference in the life of a young person,” he said. Orr has served and continues to serve on numerous boards and committees and has received numerous honors and citations. Even a conference room at Fort Sill was renamed in his honor and is referred to as the “Orr Room” instead of the “War Room.”

His medals include The Soldiers Medal, two Bronze Star Medals with “V”, two Purple Hearts, three Meritorious Medals, eight Air Medals and an Army Commendation Medal. A 2018 handout at the Annual Jerry Orr Character Counts Friends of Scouting Banquet noted that Orr’s dedication to the community is famous. “He is a Lawton institution. With over 60 years of service to his family, his uniform and his country, Jerry Orr continues to serve others every day.”