A Nazi sniper’s bullet hit him in Salerno, Italy. He was part of the Normandy invasion, too, and fought at The Battle of the Bulge. Mr. Charlie Jenkins was one of those World War II veterans who came back home and showed us how to live a successful, good life.
I had the pleasure of getting to know Mr. Jenkins over the last decade. He died July 5 at the age of 92. His funeral a few days later, with full military honors at graveside, was inspiring.
He grew up in middle Georgia, attended Georgia Military College, of which his father was president. Then, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and Mr. Jenkins and the rest of the nation had things to do. Like many at the time, Mr. Jenkins was a very young man forced to become a seasoned leader of others almost overnight. He rose to the occasion, like many.
A few times over the years, Mr. Jenkins and I sat down in his office with a recorder to digitally document his war years, and some of his life experiences. He did it to graciously appease my curiosity and for duty to the many WW II veterans who’ve passed. I treasure the recordings. His family has copies, and the recordings will be available to those interested in knowing the real-life experience of WW II vets.
Mr. Jenkins -- wounded and recovering in Europe after the sniper bullet -- proposed by letter to a young lady back in Georgia he’d fondly known since grade school. She accepted. As mentioned, Mr. Jenkins saw from start to finish the U.S.-led European invasion. And in fact, he had the record to show he was actually one of the last U.S. officers to leave the European Theater to come home after the war.
He came back home and started a family with the young lady he proposed to, and he stayed happily married to the young lady until her death a few years ago. He used the GI Bill to get his accounting degree. He helped start and lead one of the biggest accounting firms in the Southeast. After he retired from that accounting firm that still proudly bears his name, he started another financial group. It became successful, too. His son took it over. My wife works at that group.
He was one of the most respected men in his professional field and in his community. Mr. Jenkins is sorely missed right now by many.
But those are just the broad strokes of his life and don’t take into consideration the daily accomplishments a man can make toward family, work, community leadership and personal encouragement to others.
No life, unfortunately, goes without heartache or hardship. But what Mr. Jenkins and much of his generation showed us is you can face hardship directly, conquer it and mold the experience into something positive – a successful life.
I’m damned proud to have known Mr. Charlie Jenkins, and many others who saved the world so many decades ago and then tried to make the world better.
Mr. Jenkins, we owe you and your generation a lot. Rest well, sir. You more than earned it. We’ll do our best to earn it, too.