"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bringing Brother Home: by Ronnie Ray Jenkins

Charles "Chuckie" Jenkins
He left in February, and by early June,  he was dead.  June 10, 1965 to be exact, sometime after midnight Vietnam time. 

But it was the next day near Clear Creek when a knock came to the front door. It wasn’t the Army; it was his pregnant wife that I saw from my hiding place behind my Mother’s yellow sundress. 

I never saw my brother’s wife cry before, but as she stood framed in the doorway with the bright light of summer behind her, she sobbed.

It was all so confusing for an eight-year old to witness such a thing. Scary too. It was the first time I ever heard such mournful wailing, and when she passed a telegram to my mother it increased two-fold. The telegram stated my brother, a Green Beret, was missing in action.

What’s that mean, Mom? Is he lost? He was just here a few months ago. He came upstairs, Mom, and sat on the edge of each of our beds taking turns telling us to be good kids and to listen to you and Dad. 

Where’s Vietnam, Mom? I thought he was in North Carolina, Mom. Remember for my class project, I chose North Carolina to write to their tourism bureau to find out about their state?  Mom?  (I only thought those words; there was too much commotion now).

That night we had a lot of visitors. I climbed up on a chair and watched the television. My Dad watched it too, I liked Chiller Theater, but Dad kept trying to find the news. Two stations were the only choices, and I never saw my Dad change the channels back and forth so much. 

I got to stay up late, and even when I was getting fidgety, they didn’t yell at me. My Mom’s eyes sure look red. Dad’s face looks blank, and empty. There were six other kids in the house, but I didn’t know where they were, they were so quiet. Things were never quiet around here.

When the last visitor left, and the television signed off to nothing but white specks on blackness, I went upstairs to bed. I could hear my parents in muffled serious voices, but could make out very little. They rarely talked in such quiet tones. So, I lay on my back with my hands folded behind my head and stared up toward the black ceiling.

Missing. Action. Vietnam. What did it all mean anyway?

My brother knew these woods like nobody did, I thought. He probably was camping, or hiding from the other guys. He did that a lot of times with us kids. He was good at it. I wished I could walk as quiet as he did. You couldn’t hear his boots in the leaves. 

He’d jump out and scare his buddies for sure. That’s what he did to us, and we’d all let out a startled squeal, and take off running back to the safety of the big yard, or house. But, none of us could come close to outrunning him. I doubt anyone could catch him over there. He’d just run and run, and if he had too, he’d climb right up in a tree too. He wasn’t afraid of being in any tall trees; he’d go right to the top. He even jumped out of planes. I don’t like being up high.

The covers feel soft, and I pull them over my eyes to make my darkness even darker. I fell asleep wondering if it was as black there in that place called Vietnam, and if they had katydids. I knew they had monkeys, because awhile back he sent home a picture of him with two of them clutching onto him. He even wrote on the back that they looked like the twins when we were little. Mom laughed, see, I have a twin sister. Good night.

Morning light through the window sure can make a blanket hot. I kicked them off, and noticed all four beds in the room were empty. I walked on my knees on the soft bed and positioned myself at that window. There were cars parked along the road outside the house and people milling around in the yard with their heads down.

A dark green car with a star on the side of it turned around in the middle of the road and I squinted from my perch and watched it leave.

Chuckie's Headstone
We rarely have this much company. That looks like Uncle Paul down there. Hey, there’s my older sister and her husband.  They live far away, and we don’t get to see them much at all.

Why are all these people hugging Mom like that?

I know.  I know.  I know ... I bet the Army guys are bringing my brother home.

Ronnie Ray Jenkins

About the Author

Ronnie Ray Jenkins is the author of The Flowers of Reminiscence, The Flynn City Egg Man Series, Pickletwit, and hundreds of award winning short stories. 

His series, Son of Trout is a consistent Number One Best Seller on Amazon Kindle. 

He has appeared as a featured author on Huffington Post, CBC Radio, and his blog, Ronnie Ray Jenkins--A Writer's Life is read by thousands.

Visit Ronnie's Blog

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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  1. This is a real sad story, but it has to be told. It is really sad also the way this country treated so many of us vets back then.

    A great story C. J., and thank you for sharing this with all of us.
    Allen J. Folk

  2. We must never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice nor those who still carry the wounds and scars of this war. Thank you CJ for sharing this, it's greatly appreciated.

  3. My most humble thanks for allowing me the opportunity to share your heartfelt story, Ronnie, and again, I'm so sorry for your loss.

  4. Humor , Was in the C-highlands in Di Linth MP"S showed up at my parent, said I AWOL s door ? Called home from Cam R. ? WTF , why was I getting paid everv month including jump pay ? HA! Parents were shaken with that visit , the Army ?
    Later Dee[815th/102nd Eng 75th Ranger US Army Rt.]

  5. Ronnie, very evocative essay. Thank you, so much, for sharing! I posted it to Facebook and also on my blog.


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