For Arthur ‘Art’ Hendrickson, serving his county is what he had to do.
So he did.
Hendrickson enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1939 and served for 20 years before retiring. He and his three brothers served in the military. Hendrickson went through boot camp with one of his brothers while his youngest sibling entered the U.S. Army.
“Well it’s (the Navy) better than carrying a rifle in the Army,” Hendrickson said with a laugh. “I always wanted to go into the Navy (because) it’s much more interesting.”
When he first enlisted it was a time of peace so there wasn’t too much to do. That all changed with the start of World War II in the latter half of 1939.
“We had a swimming pool and things to do and so forth and it’s in California,” Hendrickson said of his experience during an interview on the 75th anniversary of D-Day. “But after the war started, there was plenty to do and different things to prepare for and getting ready for war.”
During the war, the man who celebrated his 100th birthday at the end of May flew multi-engined aircrafts with supplies or people to various locations including Alaska, Japan, the Philippines and the Hawaiian islands. He and his shipmates spent most of World War II in the Pacific and away from the combat.
“If you’re flying at 10,000 feet, you don’t see any war,” Hendrickson said. “You’re going from here to there and you’re just doing a job. And you get there and you unload whatever you were carrying and you turn around and come back.”
“My brother was in the Army during World War II and he was just walking and walking and walking. He would have to fight sometimes but ... I was up there where it was clean. I didn’t have to worry about getting my feet dirty.”
“But I was very lucky, I was never shot at and I never had to shoot at anybody.”
Hendrickson was raised in Knippa, Texas, a city roughly 72 miles east of San Antonio. He said the people in his town were always impressed that he was seeing so many parts of the country and the world because many of the people who lived there didn’t leave.
The constant travel in the Navy didn’t deter the exploration bug inside of Hendrickson. When he retired from the Navy he worked in a number of civilian jobs and spent a lot of time on the road.
He said if there was a place he wanted to see he would get in his car and go. And when there was something else that peaked his interest it was time to move on.
His life on the go is how he landed in Sierra Vista, the place he now calls home. And on his 100th birthday the man who doesn’t like the spotlight was thrown a birthday party at Prestige Assisted Living at Sierra Vista, which he appreciated and allowed him to see his younger brother who lives in Oregon.
“I appreciate the people that make the birthday party possible, but at the same time you’re glad when it’s over with (because) I can relax,” he said.