HENDERSON — One of the oldest surviving World War II veterans in Vance County, Thomas Floyd, has plenty to be thankful for during the holiday weekend as he celebrates his 96th birthday.
Having experienced so much during his nine and a half decades, Floyd has remained in good spirits and is looking forward to enjoying another birthday with his family and friends in a socially distant fashion.
“I don’t feel any different than when I was 94,” Floyd said.
Floyd’s military service with the U.S. Naval Reserve began in the U.S. Naval Training Center, Bainbridge at Port Deposit, Maryland, before he later continued his training in Miami, Florida.
As a radioman third class, Floyd was preparing to go overseas to transmit messages from ship to ship until Japanese Emperor Hirohito announced the surrender of his country on Aug. 15, 1945, after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki earlier that month.
With the war now over, Floyd continued to work in Miami until his base ceased operations. On Thanksgiving Day in 1945, Floyd began another new chapter in the U.S. Naval Reserve when he started working at Naval Station Norfolk as a keypunch operator.
Floyd’s time in Norfolk lasted less than a year, as he was honorably discharged in August 1946. He admitted that working in the U.S. Naval Reserve was slightly jarring at first, but Floyd was thrilled to have the opportunity to learn about the U.S. military during World War II and travel to different parts of the country.
“It was definitely a change in my life for me,” Floyd said. “I was born on a family farm, so I got to see a lot of the United States.”
After being discharged, Floyd proceeded to start his own family and took a couple of different jobs before he settled into a role as a manager at the local Sears stores in Henderson and Oxford. Both stores enjoyed success during his tenure, which ended in 1987 after he made the decision to retire at the age of 62.
Floyd has used the majority of the last 34 years doing chores around his house and spending time with his family, and considers himself fortunate that he is still able to perform many tasks independently ahead of his 96th birthday.
“Thankfully, I retired in good health,” Floyd said. “I’ve been able to maintain the home, but now I live by myself, which I’ve been doing the past six years. I do the cooking, washing, cleaning, ironing and whatever else I can to keep myself busy.”
The birthday festivities for Floyd will be slightly different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but he has made arrangements to have a couple of family members visit him at a time over the span of a few days.
Despite the current circumstances creating limitations, Floyd said that he has enjoyed talking to family members one-on-one over the last few days, but he is optimistic that improved conditions will allow him to have his whole family under one roof for his next birthday.
“We hope to have something a little bigger for my 97th birthday,” Floyd said.
Floyd will officially turn 96 on Sunday.