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Washington County Veterans Hall of Famers discuss commitment to service

Reggie Pickering, 84, of Reno, explains in his home Thursday why he continues to serve local veterans through the Marine Corps League. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

An ingrained expectation of service motivated three of this year’s inductees into the Washington County Veterans Hall of Fame when they signed up for the U.S. Armed Services in the 1950s.

“I made my dad a promise when I was 17 that I’d make it a career,” said Robert Jenkins, 79, of Marietta. “I kept my promise.”

Jenkins joined the U.S. Air Force in 1956, under the tutelage of World War II and Korean War-era sergeants, keeping their men in line and patching aircraft through the Vietnam War.

“It was an honor to serve on the most decorated ship in any U.S. conflict after it returned from Korea. I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world,” said Louis “Sam” Gwinn, 85, of Marietta, as he recalled the memories made aboard the U.S.S. New Jersey and the U.S.S. Salem. “Everybody was serving some time, many were being drafted, but I didn’t particularly care for getting scripted into the Army, so I volunteered for the Navy.”

And he continued to serve the rest of his civilian life, known for volunteering — whether that was coaching football at Phillips Elementary to generations of local boys or building up Jackson Hill park alongside fellow Jaycee member and inductee Reggie Pickering.

Sam Gwinn, 85, of Marietta, reviews in his home Thursday the history of routes made by the U.S.S. New Jersey before his time of service in the U.S. Navy on the same ship. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

“Oh, we’ve had a good time over the years,” smiled Pickering, 84, of Reno. “I’m overwhelmed to be included in this but very honored. Many of my friends included in this have gone through hell, I didn’t.”

But Pickering has continued to serve his community, though he shies away from the recognition of it.

“It’s about the people, visiting the greatest generation, helping the kids, giving all our veterans someone to talk with,” he smiled.

Pickering is currently the chaplain of the local Marine Corps League detachment, taking joy in the Wednesday morning breakfasts and visitation to homebound veterans.

Jenkins still can’t slow down from involvement in the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post, settling his Vietnam War cap on his head and accompanying ceremonies and funerals with the notes of “Taps,” leaving his lips on a bugle.

Robert Jenkins, 79, of Marietta, stops to pick up his dog Rascal in his home Thursday as he talks about his career in the U.S. Air Force. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

And Gwinn’s den at home in Norwood is filled with the reminiscence of the U.S. Navy.

Thursday, he pulled out a replica of the U.S.S. New Jersey off his bookshelf.

He goes to visit the ship and join in on reunion festivities each year to not only reconnect with old shipmates of his generation but the generations before and after who continued its legacy.

“The camaraderie is priceless, it’s family,” Gwinn said. “But to be a part of that history, to have served on the most decorated ship in the U.S. military, simply an honor.”

And seeing service, both in civilian clothes and in uniform, as an honor and privilege, is why these three men are included in this year’s induction class.

Sam Gwinn, 85, of Marietta, explains his job as a gunner’s mate aboard the U.S.S. New Jersey with a replica of the ship in his home Thursday. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

All three men will be among the 15 inductees honored at the 2019 Washington County Hall of Fame induction ceremony and cocktail hour, which is open to the public on Nov. 1.

Doors will open at 5 p.m. for a social hour in the Dyson Baudo Recreation Center on the Marietta College campus.

The induction ceremony will then follow at 6 p.m.

The Marietta Times will continue to feature inductees of this year’s hall of fame through the date of the induction ceremony.

Janelle Patterson can be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

Robert Jenkins, 79, of Marietta, is one of the 15 inductees into the 2019 Washington County Veterans Hall of Fame. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

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