At the age of 17 in 1938, Ralph B. Lawson joined the 18th Field Artillery, a unit equipped with horse-drawn weapons. He rose to the rank of Sergeant through service in several artillery organizations before being discharged in July 1941. He reenlisted in only one month, ultimately joining the 98th Mule Pack Artillery and training with the famous 10th Mountain Division. Upon volunteering for hazardous duty, he saw service in New Caledonia, Australia and New Guinea, then joined the 5307th Composite Unit, also known as "Merrill's Marauders." The force became the first U.S. ground combat force to fight on the continent of Asia during World War II and rely entirely upon parachute airdrop for re-supply.
Lawson was hand-picked for the reconnaissance and intelligence platoon. Fighting in three major battles and 32 minor engagements, Merrill's Marauders were given a Presidential Unit Citation for capturing the Japanese airfield at Myitkyina in fierce fighting. Suffering from months of jungle fighting, fatigue, improper diet and a fever of unknown origin, Lawson was evacuated to a field hospital in India, and eventually to the U.S., where he was discharged in June 1945. During his service, Lawson received the Bronze Star, American Service, Asiatic-Pacific, Good Conduct and China Victory medals among others, and the Combat Infantryman's Badge.
After the war he married and settled in Catoosa, where he continues to serve his country and fellow veterans through his extensive volunteer efforts. He is past Chapter Commander and Chaplain for the Tulsa Chapter of the Disabled American Veterans. He volunteered to help with transportation for the Muskogee VA Hospital, and is a long-time volunteer at the Claremore Veterans Center, among other activities.