MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. (WTRF) – Born Navy. That’s how veteran Gary Jenkins describes what led him to the service.
He enlisted as soon as he could, joining the U.S. Navy Reserve as a Junior in high school. Jenkins wasn’t alone.. His father led the way for he and his brothers to join the military.
I have been wearing uniforms since I’ve been a boy scout.Gary Jenkins, Veteran
So, wearing a military uniform was almost inevitable for Gary Jenkins.
He was raised by a father who was a Master Chief in the U.S. Navy and Jenkins and his brothers wanted to follow in his footsteps.
Their family’s service goes back even farther.
I am very very proud of my family. I’m very very proud of my uncles. Five went to World War II. Five came home.
My mother had five brothers. When World War II started my grandfather said ‘they didn’t take one of my boys, they took them all’.Gary Jenkins, Veteran
His father also had an uncle who was in the Air Force during World War II.
Jenkins joined the Navy while still in high school. After graduation he was sent to boiler tender school in Chicago.
It wasn’t the job he wanted. Jenkins hoped to be a torpedo man on a PT boat, but he said he did as he was instructed.
The Navy taught me respect, which seems to be by the wayside anymore. You don’t ask or say what you want to do. You’re told what to do and you do what you’re supposed to.Gary Jenkins, Veteran
Boiler tenders were a needed position and there weren’t many people who were trained to do the job.
Jenkins was assigned to the USS Holder DD-819, which was based in Norfolk, Virginia. It was part of a squadron of destroyers headed to Vietnam.
People always ask me ‘what did you see in Vietnam’? I didn’t see much of anything because we was in general quarters when we was firing upon Vietnam and when in general quarters they shut all the hatches and we was not allowed to do anything and that lasted sometimes for hours.Gary Jenkins, Veteran
While the Holder traveled all over the world, Jenkins spent a lot of his time below decks. Sometimes he was so low in the ship in the forward fire room that he was under the water level.
It’s hot; and I mean hot and hot, hot, hot. You never get used to the humidity. When they go to general quarters they shut the hatches and it gets hotter.Gary Jenkins, Veteran
However, he did still get to see quite a few places and explore some while on liberty. The USS Holder’s travels included through the Panama Canal, Guam, Hawaii, Hong Kong, Vietnam, the Philippines, Japan, India, across the Equator, through the Suez Canal to Greece, across the Mediterranean Sea and back to Norfolk.
All that travel happened over several years.
Jenkins also points out that he became a Shellback by crossing the Equator. It’s a title that other veterans will really understand and appreciate.
As Jenkins was stationed on the USS holder, his brothers Richard and Gordon were also serving in the Navy. Richard spent eight years in the Navy and then another 25 years in the Air Force, retiring as a Chief Master Sergeant.
My brothers and I was all in Vietnam at the same time, but not at the same place. My mother was here without my Dad who was in the Navy Reserves, but there was her three sons over in Vietnam. She had no idea.Gary Jenkins, Veteran
After years at sea, Jenkins was discharged from the USS Holder.
He spent some time in the reserve and parted ways with the Navy in 1970.
It was my life and I’m glad I served it and I’m glad I was honorably discharged. I can take that to my grave.Gary Jenkins, Veteran
The Jenkins family has a proud military tradition that didn’t stop with Gary.
His nephew, who is also named Gary (pictured below), served in the Air Force. His great niece Ashley (also pictured below) is currently serving in the same branch.
After returning home to Moundsville, Jenkins worked in the coal mine for many years.
Upon his retirement, he joined the Moundsville Veterans Honor Guard and is proud to serve once again.