NPR Remembers SPC Jenkins
Right before I left the Kandahar Province, I traveled from COP Howz-e-Madad eastward to FOB Wilson to transport a detainee to the headquarters of the new battle-space owner of the Zhari District. The 101st ABN had replaced our company area of operations with a whole battalion, so it was exciting to see the potential that could come with increased manpower patrolling the streets.
After the formal paperwork was processed, I handed authority to my medic who used a handful of soldiers to do a last minute medical check up on the detainee’s vitals. Feeling the need to explore the power a full brigade could bring to Zhari, I strolled around the FOB’s intricate design of bunkers and containers, eventually running into a young 19 yearold soldier named SPC Jenkins. He was lingering around his air conditioned tent in the 120 degree heat, presumably right after smoking a cigarette. I thought how crazy he must have been to be smoking in this scorching heat, but then again, most of my soldiers used some form of tobacco to keep their sanity during the tour. I started the conversation with an inconsequential “Hey- so what unit are you guys with”…I proceeded to learn that Jenkins was a combat engineer and a fairly intelligent kid. He wasn’t exactly thrilled to be in Afghanistan, but he had the right attitude to make the most of the tour. At this point, I was on my twelfth month of combat; I was tired, bitter, and edgy. Had it been any other person, seeing Jenkins smiling face would make me roll my eyes, scoffing at their naivety. But there was something special about this kid…he bore a mature optimism that didn’t spring so much from naivety, but necessity…because out here, he knew the situation was bad, but he also knew that a year would go by a lot fast with a smile on his face.
A few weeks ago, I had read about SPC Jenkins’ death from an IED in a military newspaper listing of casualties. My skin grew cold and my eyes feel to the floor. My world paused for about a minute…and I wondered, “How could someone so inconsequential to my life bring me to a silent halt?” I suppose that’s the power the bond of service has on soldiers. It’s something we don’t feel very vividly as a force these days. After all, the military homogenizes itself deliberately as it scrambles its manpower around the world in three year rotations. The Infantry unit from Hawaii and the infantry unit from Ft. Lewis and the Cav unit from Ft. Bragg…we aren’t all that different really, and I suppose we tend to get lost in the ginormous sea of ACU green and gray. We forget that we’re not just members of the same Army; we’re brother’s in the same family.
I heard on my local NPR station a new series that Public Radio is doing to recognize the faces of those paying the price for our freedom, and as if the magical radio gods had been watching me, NPR aired this story on SPC Jenkins’ Memorial Ceremony from FOB Wilson. My eyelids flung wide open as I listened attentively upon every syllable exiting the commentator’s mouth.”Man, to think I only donated to NPR’s pledge drive to get them to knock it off!” But now, I was reaping the pay-off of a nose-bleed section ticket to an event I surely would have tried to attended had I been on FOB Wilson this month.
I hope that you’ll visit this article; I hope you’ll listen to the sounds of the bagpipes playing Amazing Grace. I hope you’ll feel the pain and genuine brotherhood in the voices of SPC Jenkins’ teammates. And as the Holiday Season quickly approaches, I hope you keep them and their family in your thoughts and prayers as they spend their Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays on the front lines.