I could not finish this article without crying. The number 3000 is far too staggering to consider when you put it into perspective of each one being a person whose words of wisdom to their loved ones, like First Sgt. Charles King, have been taken so unfairly away. How many children will not know the voice of their parent, like little Jordan? The NY Times Editor Dana Canedy shares her personal loss (reg. req.)
For months before my fiancé, First Sgt. Charles Monroe King, kissed my swollen stomach and said goodbye, he had been preparing for the beginning of the life we had created and for the end of his own.
He boarded a plane in December 2005 with two missions, really - to lead his young soldiers in combat and to prepare our boy for a life without him.
Dear son, Charles wrote on the last page of the journal, "I hope this book is somewhat helpful to you. Please forgive me for the poor handwriting and grammar. I tried to finish this book before I was deployed to Iraq. It has to be something special to you. I've been writing it in the states, Kuwait and Iraq.
The journal will have to speak for Charles now. He was killed Oct. 14 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his armored vehicle in Baghdad. Charles, 48, had been assigned to the Army's First Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment, Fourth Infantry Division, based in Fort Hood, Tex. He was a month from completing his tour of duty.
For our son's first Christmas, Charles had hoped to take him on a carriage ride through Central Park. Instead, Jordan, now 9 months old, and I snuggled under a blanket in a horse-drawn buggy. The driver seemed puzzled about why I was riding alone with a baby and crying on Christmas Day. I told him.
"No charge," he said at the end of the ride, an act of kindness in a city that can magnify loneliness.
On paper, Charles revealed himself in a way he rarely did in person. He thought hard about what to say to a son who would have no memory of him. Even if Jordan will never hear the cadence of his father's voice, he will know the wisdom of his words.↓ Story continues below ↓
Never be ashamed to cry. No man is too good to get on his knee and humble himself to God. Follow your heart and look for the strength of a woman.
Charles tried to anticipate questions in the years to come. Favorite team? I am a diehard Cleveland Browns fan. Favorite meal? Chicken, fried or baked, candied yams, collard greens and cornbread. Childhood chores? Shoveling snow and cutting grass. First kiss? Eighth grade.
In neat block letters, he wrote about faith and failure, heartache and hope. He offered tips on how to behave on a date and where to hide money on vacation. Rainy days have their pleasures, he noted: Every now and then you get lucky and catch a rainbow.
Charles mailed the book to me in July, after one of his soldiers was killed and he had recovered the body from a tank. The journal was incomplete, but the horror of the young man's death shook Charles so deeply that he wanted to send it even though he had more to say. He finished it when he came home on a two-week leave in August to meet Jordan, then 5 months old. He was so intoxicated by love for his son that he barely slept, instead keeping vigil over the baby.
[..]Back in April, after a roadside bombing remarkably similar to that which would claim him, Charles wrote about death and duty.
The 18th was a long, solemn night, he wrote in Jordan's journal. We had a memorial for two soldiers who were killed by an improvised explosive device. None of my soldiers went to the memorial. Their excuse was that they didn't want to go because it was depressing. I told them it was selfish of them not to pay their respects to two men who were selfless in giving their lives for their country.
Things may not always be easy or pleasant for you, that's life, but always pay your respects for the way people lived and what they stood for. It's the honorable thing to do.
When Jordan is old enough to ask how his father died, I will tell him of Charles's courage and assure him of Charles's love. And I will try to comfort him with his father's words.
God blessed me above all I could imagine, Charles wrote in the journal. I have no regrets, serving your country is great.
He had tucked a message to me in the front of Jordan's journal. This is the letter every soldier should write, he said. For us, life will move on through Jordan. He will be an extension of us and hopefully everything that we stand for. ... I would like to see him grow up to be a man, but only God knows what the future holds.