Thomas Junkins Jr. served as an electrician in the Navy for a year and a half. (Amber Hart/Special to The Collegian)

By Amber Hart
Staff reporter
Thomas Junkins Jr. served in the Navy during World War II for a year and a half as a third class electrician.

“In 1945, when you turn 18 years old, you got your draft papers.” said Junkins. “So I enlisted in the Navy. With that came an opportunity to get radio training and other stuff like that.”

Junkins enlisted in the Navy in 1945 and was out in late 1946. Approximately 40 others from Junkins’ high school in El Dorado enlisted at the same time. Before Junkins enlisted and left for training he was in high school, doing what any other teenage boy would do.

“I believe that the armed forces can impact someone’s life many ways.” said Junkins. “For us high school boys, it turned us into men.  It taught me how to be on my own. It’s an experience that I’ll never forget.”

Junkins was stationed in the Philippines, Okinawa, and Shanghai, China.

“I have had chances to go visit these places but I couldn’t afford it and I was busy raising my kids.” said Junkins.

He had an opportunity to visit the WWII Memorial in Washington, DC but his health prevented this.

The most memorable moment that Junkins had was in 1945 in Okinawa when a typhoon hit while they were still in the water in a submarine chaser, a small, fast, naval vessel intended for anti-submarine warfare.

“The waves were over three stories high and the rain was so hard and heavy that you couldn’t see four feet in front of you. When the waves crashed over the sub chaser that we were in, I was holding onto the anchor chain so hard that when the storm was over you could see my finger prints on the chain from where I was holding it.” said Junkins.

When Junkins enlisted, his parents were worried, but when he got back they were happy and glad to see him and that he was okay. He told them about the fun stuff that he had done.

Junkins and his friends had fun in Shanghai, China. They found a YMCA where they could go dancing. They went sightseeing. “We saw a lot of bars and we did what any other 17-18 year-old would do.” said Junkins. “Also, the Philippines were peaceful and calm.” When Junkins and his friends got back to shore they went their separate ways and still kept in touch.

“I used to keep in touch with the others that I served with, but then we lost track of each other and we also got older and grew apart,” said Junkins.

After Junkins was discharged from the Navy, he got married Sept 12, 1947. He was married 43 years until his wife died from breast cancer. They had three daughters, six grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren.

“Veterans Day means a lot. I have celebrated it in many different ways; with a bean feed, marched in parades, and set up flags. It is a big holiday for all of us. We need to honor our Veterans, living and dead.” said Junkins. “The only thing that I wish is that more people would get involved. Everything has diminished because of the lack of help, but there has been a lot of support especially because of the Veterans home and the cemetery.”

Junkins moved into the Veterans Home July 18, 2011.

Amber Hart is a freshman majoring in communication. You may e-mail her at Amber.Hart@sckans.edu.