Welcome Home, Jenkins Dove
The first time I saw Jenkins Dove he was only a couple of years old, outfitted in a Scottish kilt, walking beside his younger brother in a stroller and his mother as they visited my farm in Virginia for the first time … but not the last.
That day and that first meeting, 22 years ago, near the small town of Flint Hill, Virginia, was the beginning of a lifelong friendship and romance with the Dove family. Each of them, Scott, Cecilia, Jenkins and Reed deserve a written narrative of their own lives and many accomplishments.
I might get around to that another time. But, for now and for obvious reasons, I’d like to share a few thoughts about Jenkins.
First Lieutenant, soon to be Captain, Jenkins Dove flew out of Afghanistan with his men and arrived back in the United States during this past weekend … Memorial Day. 1st Lt. Dove sat in his seat, occasionally glancing thoughtfully out the window to see the landscapes and the Atlantic Ocean 30,000 feet below, while one of his men from Fairfax, Virginia, came home in a cargo hold.
Jenkins grew up on a quintessential, Virginia countryside horse farm, but his days were not filled with unbridled privilege. His parents instilled in him a value system of hard work, compassion, responsibility and accountability. Rather than a silver spoon, he more often could be found with a muck bucket and rake taking care of the farm’s horses … clearing fallen trees from the property … or, helping his Mother with the dozen or so, always present, Scottish Deerhound adults and puppies.
Jenkins was home schooled, which provided a unique flexibility to his daily schedule. He would hit the books, in blue jeans or pajamas, devoting an hour here or an hour there, but eventually getting it done. In between lessons, he took the time to hone his horsemanship and riding skills, swimming, running and accuracy with a 10-meter air pistol.
His athletic prowess and horsemanship skills resulted in podium positions at numerous Tetrathlon competitions and championships, most often acquiring the most points and receiving top honors. Competing as an individual or as a representative of the United States Pony Club, Jenkins traveled across America and abroad. His travels not only gained him further confidence in his capabilities, but also exposed him to multicultural environments.
His home school education, combined with traditional classes at Lord Fairfax, gained him entry to the University of Virginia, where he participated in the University’s ROTC program and graduated with distinction as a U.S. Army 2nd Lieutenant.
Following required training evolutions at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and then Fort Stewart, Georgia, his outfit was deployed to Afghanistan. As an ordinance officer, Jenkins would have been typically assigned to an artillery battery, but on this deployment he would serve as a ground-pounding Squad Leader.
It’s so much harder to see young men and women depart to a war zone when you have close and personal connections to them.
There is a unique bond that exists for those who serve in America’s armed forces, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine services. While Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine have a specific bond unto and among themselves, there is a greater bond that transcends service identification – a bond between all of those who serve – a bond that can never be broken.
Jenkins Dove is a grown man now, far more mature than his 24 years. Throughout his life and currently as an Ordinance Officer in the United States Army, he has worn shoes that many others cannot fill and has had experiences that many others will never see.
He is certainly one of America’s finest.
I am very proud of him and all of his accomplishments. While in my mind I can intellectualize his age and maturity, in my heart he will always be that young boy dressed in a kilt.
Welcome home, Jenkins Dove … Welcome Home.
Memorial Day Weekend – Sunday, May 26, 2013