Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Army Spc. Gerald R. Jenkins

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Gerald R. Jenkins, 19, of Circleville, Ohio

Spc Jenkins was assigned to the 1st Brigade Special Troop Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky; died Oct. 20, 2010 in Maquan, Zhari district, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

A 19-year-old soldier from Circleville who was killed in Afghanistan was remembered yesterday by his father as "an honorable young man" who planned to make a career in the Army.

Spc. Gerald Robert Jenkins died Wednesday after an improvised explosive device detonated while his unit was on foot patrol in Maquan, Zhari district, the U.S. Department of Defense said.

Jenkins was the sort of young man who thought of others before he thought of himself, said his father, Roger D. Jenkins, who imagined what his son's final moments might have been like. "I just know if he was still coherent when this bomb went off, what was going through his mind was what this was going to do to me," said Mr. Jenkins, voice choking. "He worried more about other people than about himself."

"I just told him, 'Don't be a hero. Just come back home.' He's like, 'Dad, they trained us well and I'll be alright.' He promised me and his mother that he was going to come home," Roger Jenkins, the father of Spc. Gerald R. Jenkins, said Friday.

Gerald Jenkins joined the Army in 2008 at age 17 after earning his high-school equivalency certificate. He wanted to make a better life for himself, Mr. Jenkins said.

With some friends using drugs in Circleville and jobs in the area scarce because of the economy, he saw what he didn't want, his father said. What he wanted was the Army, where he hoped to make the rank of sergeant eventually, his father said.

The elder Jenkins, 46, said he raised and home-schooled Gerald after he and the boy's mother divorced when Gerald was 8. "Me and him have been together the last 11 years on our own," Mr. Jenkins said. At first, he wasn't going to give his permission for his son to join the Army at 17: "I wasn't ready to let him go." But he relented when his son begged him.

Gerald Jenkins thrived in the Army. He had been in Afghanistan for only five or six weeks, his father said, when he called home and said he had rejoined the Army for six more years. Jenkins was a combat engineer assigned to the 1st Brigade Special Troop Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Ky.

"Bub," as his parents called him, picked up a new nickname among his Army buddies. They called him "Leroy" Jenkins, after the evangelist, his father said.

He would have been coming home Nov. 1 on a 15-day leave. "He was counting the days down," his father said. On Wednesday night, the elder Jenkins received a phone call from the Circleville Police Department, asking him to come to police headquarters. There, at the station, an Army master sergeant and an Army chaplain told him what had happened to his son.

Yesterday, he received a phone call from an Army family liaison officer telling him that his son's body had just been brought to the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. He was told that his son's body will be returned to Circleville sometime next week.

"He was very brave and a patriot," Mr. Jenkins said. "He wanted to make a difference, and it cost him his life."

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Gerald Jenkins, who died a hero in service to our country as he protected the freedoms we enjoy,” said Kirk McMahon, superintendent of Circleville City Schools. “While our hearts are heavy by his loss, our nation and our community is stronger by his service. Gerald Jenkins will not be forgotten.”

Jenkins was a combat engineer assigned to Alpha Company, 1st Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), according to information obtained from Fort Campbell, Ky. He joined the Army in October 2008 and arrived at Fort Campbell in March 2009.

His awards and decorations include the Army Achievement Medal; Army Commendation Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Army Service Ribbon.

Army Spc. Gerald R. Jenkins was killed in action on 10/20/10.

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