World War II U.S. Navy veteran and retired civil servant Reese Walls Jenkins turned 97 on Aug. 12.
He and his wife Catherine “Rene” Jenkins, 92, live with their daughter Dawn Jenkins and her husband Daniel Fulghum in Miami Lakes.
Dawn Jenkins wanted to share the story of her father’s life with readers of The Miami Laker.
“He was very proud of his military service,” Dawn Jenkins said.
During his naval career, Reese Jenkins, known as “Pee Wee,” served aboard the aircraft carrier Intrepid.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor prompted Jenkins to enlist after graduating high school in Pennsylvania.
The Intrepid withstood five kamikaze attacks and a torpedo strike, according to intrepidmuseum.org.
Jenkins endured face and eye injuries after kamikaze hits and needed a cornea transplant, his daughter said.
In 1945, his commanding officer wrote him a commendation for valor, saying in part that as a member of the Gunnery Department, his “conduct and skill while under heavy enemy air attacks contributed to the destruction of at least 10 enemy aircraft.”
The officer also said in a letter shared by Dawn Jenkins that his “loyalty, steadfast devotion to duty and courage in maintaining heavy and accurate gunfire in the face of enemy suicide attacks” were “in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”
In 1982, the Intrepid became a museum in New York harbor. The Jenkins family spent his 86th birthday on board the ship.
“He said that was his best birthday gift,” Dawn Jenkins said.
After the war, Jenkins worked in the civil service at what is now called Naval Support Activity Mechanicsburg, in central Pennsylvania.
Jenkins was also a drummer and taught music.
He retired after 45 years of service. Catherine Jenkins retired after a career as a long-distance telephone operator for AT&T.
The couple, who married in 1951, moved to Miami Lakes in 2019 to live with their daughter and son-in-law.