The Transition Home

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.


7 responses

  1. Meredith

    I am so sad to read about the death of SPC Jenkins. It is so painful how many lives are cut short and how many families lose loved ones. I’m going to keep his mom and his team in my prayers.

    29 October 10 at 18:42

  2. Cam Srpan

    May he rest in peace and be honored for giving his life for our country.

    30 October 10 at 00:53

  3. Colleen J Frederick

    This story really touches me. My Son is currently at FOB Wilson. My heart goes out to this family. Thank you for sharing this story.

    30 October 10 at 01:08

  4. Irene Clark

    A little bit of our American fiber dies every time one of our soldiers meets an untimely death. No matter how much we wish we could change it…death is final. At least on this side of heaven. But, we can hold onto the hope that loved ones didn’t die in vain and that somehow we will meet again in God’s eternal bliss. Bitterness won’t empower us and we will struggle to lay it to rest. We continue to pray, we continue to hope for better relationships with all nations; so that they and us can enjoy peace. Rest in peace SPC Jenkins. Without you we suffer a great loss.

    30 October 10 at 22:41

  5. Nina

    The fallen all deserve to be remembered!

    30 October 10 at 23:12

  6. I heard it on NPR this week. I pulled over, stopped the car and listened. Obviously, it hit me hard as well. News of this kind always does –does not matter whether or not I knew him, I’m at the age where every person who serves (including contractors) might as well be my kid.
    I’m awfully glad you got to meet him, Rajiv. Fate made your meeting him a necessity. The two of you were meant to touch base so that you could write that he had a great smile, and that he was also intelligent. This memory will give his family a lot of comfort in the upcoming weeks when things are quiet and the hubbub has drifted away.

    It does pain me that he was so young. I love these young enlisted guys. They could do so many other things –get jobs, find girlfriends, hang out, and yet they made a choice to take the toughest assignment of all: a soldier. I wish he had more experiences in his young life. But he didn’t. So it’s up to us to make sure we live our lives with well and with kindness, to carry on in their names.

    31 October 10 at 00:00

  7. Brandon

    I served with Jenkins and I was there when he took the fall. He was a great man and my Bestfriend. The tour is coming to and end now. And i think back to the day his life was takin from him…It doesnt seem fair. He was very Positive about the war he always said Im not worried about nothing I know Im going home. HE would also say when he was a Driver man i hope taliban come from around the mountain I’m opening my door and just firing. He Loved the army with a Passion. He was getting ready for leave as well and was excited about seeing his family who he hadnt been able to see in years. I Had some great memeroies with jenkins “Leeroy” which was his nickname. Memeroies of when we both showed up to ft campbell together. Me and jenkins went to basic together same platoon and company. Finished basic and both went to the 101st abn, and then both went to the same company and platoon. I miss the man. He is deffently someone I want my son to know all about and one day i will take my son to visit his resting place.

    5 April 11 at 19:40

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