John Paul Ratay immigrated to the United States from Poland in 1914, enlisted in the U.S. Army, and became a U.S. citizen. Commissioned a second Lieutenant in the Field Artillery, he earned two Purple Hearts in World War I. While stationed in China after the war, he founded the Army Language School and wrote two textbooks for the study of Chinese.
He again saw combat in World War II while serving under General George S. Patton, and retired from the Army in 1946. He moved to Mexico and married Miss Gertrude Risdon Lammers in 1952.
Prior to her death in 1984, Mrs. Ratay bequeathed funds to the Military Officers Association of America to provide educational grants to the children of deceased officers in memory of her husband.