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FRIDAY, MAY 18, 2007

State honors Marine for heroism during Hurricane Katrina

MONTGOMERY (AP)— As Hurricane Katrina was hitting the Alabama fishing village of Bayou La Batre, Marine Resources Maj. John Thomas Jenkins decided he and fellow officers would do whatever it took to rescue a pregnant woman and five children from a house quickly filling with flood waters.

It was a hazardous task. Winds were blowing at more than 100 miles per hour and the vehicle the officers were in was washed off the road, forcing them to climb out of a window. Jenkins said he had never seen water rise so fast.

"It was amazing how quick the water came up. It was like it was just coming up from the bottom of the sea," Jenkins said.

Medal of Honor

For his actions during Hurricane Katrina, on Aug. 29, 2005, Jenkins was awarded Thursday the Alabama Legislature's Medal of Honor, given annually for heroism to an Alabama law enforcement officer.

Jenkins was joined in a ceremony in the House chamber by the other officers from around the state, who were finalists for the award.

"These guys put their lives on the line every day for us and we appreciate it," said Rep. Howard Sanderford, R-Huntsville, chairman of the legislative committee that chooses the Medal of Honor recipients.

When they finally got to the house, the children had tried to get above the rising water, Jenkins said.

"The kids were standing on a table and the water was still knee-high on them," Jenkins said.

Other rescues

He said similar rescue efforts continued throughout the day as flood waters practically covered many homes in the coastal village.

"We pulled four people out of attics," Jenkins said.

One of the people helping Jenkins that day was state Rep. Spencer Collier, D-Bayou La Batre, who was a state trooper at the time.

At Thursday's ceremony, Collier said Jenkins' actions during the storm were an example of "what public service is all about."

Gov. Bob Riley said the actions of Jenkins and others on the coast was the reason that no lives were lost in Alabama directly because of the storm that killed hundreds in Mississippi and Louisiana.

"The fact that nobody lost lives had to be a result of what you did," Riley told Jenkins.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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