Robert Dwight Jenkins, a retired Navy Chief Petty Officer, celebrated his 98th birthday March 13, with an intimate gathering of friends and coworkers at the Joint Base Andrews Commissary conference room.
Jenkins, a part-time Commissary bagger, was honored by Chief Master Sgt. William Sanders, 11th Wing/Joint Base Andrews command chief, who thanked him for his past military service and gave Jenkins a commemorative coin and congratulatory letter for his 30 years of dedicated work at the Commissary on behalf of Col. Bill Knight, 11th Wing/Joint Base Andrews commander.
Theresa Guice, administrative assistant to the head abgger, was among Jenkins’ other well wishers.
“It’s been a pleasure to work with Mister Jenkins,” said Guice. “We are glad to recognize his milestone and he’s been a faithful, dedicated employee here for several years.”
Jenkins celebrated more than three decades of working as a part-time bagger at the commissary in February.
“He never misses a day of work,” said Guice. “He’s worked here Tuesday through Friday, from nine to 11 a.m. since 1984. We are his family and we love him like a father and grandfather.”
Four members from Jenkins’ church choir sing a gospel song in his honor.
Jenkins was born March 13, 1916 in South Carolina. Jenkins’ aunt adopted him when he was two years old and raised him in Lakeland, Fla. After graduating from Washington Park High School, Jenkins worked for various companies including, Greyhound, Hechinger, and Amtrak before working for the government as a file clerk.
In 1942, Jenkins was drafted into the Navy and served as a Steward/cook for several Navy admirals, where he later met and befriended Petty Officer 3rd Class Dorie Miller, a noted war hero, who received the Navy Cross for his bravery during the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
Later in his military career, while stationed in Massachusetts he served as one of the Navy’s first black recruiters. Additionally, he took classes in public speaking and studied journalism at Harvard University.
On Oct. 12, 1963, Mr. Jenkins retired as a chief petty officer and moved back to Florida. During his retirement, Jenkins did some traveling and consequently decided to move back to the Washington, D.C. area.
Jenkins, well known by his coworkers and resident community, is featured in a book entitled, “The Messman Chronicles: African-Americans in the U.S. Navy, 1932-1943.” The book is the first to address the contributions of the thousands of unheralded Sailors of African descent who served as Navy mess attendants, officer’s cooks, and stewards from the early 1930s and won respect in frontline combat when the war began.
Jenkins also attends the Guildfield Baptist church in Northeast Washington, D.C., where he was a treasurer for 26 years and he still sings on the men’s choir.
During the gathering Jenkins noted some of his hobbies are traveling, eating, and sleeping while letting the TV watch him. When asked about his diet, Jenkins attributes his good health to eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. “And I don’t eat red meat or pork,” said Jenkins. He also attributes good health to his job as a part-time bagger at the Joint Base Andrews Commissary. “I do it because it’s good exercise,” said the spry nonagenarian, who still drives to work.
Jenkins has lived to reach an age that many only dream of. When asked about the secret to his longevity, he quickly noted, “One of the reasons why I’ve lived so long is because I didn’t have anyone to argue with anyone.”