Soldier Who Killed 200 Iraqis Kills Self
- Denial in the Corps
By Kathy Dobie
18 February 2008 Issue
Marine Lance Cpl. James Jenkins is buried in the same New Jersey
cemetery that he used to run through on his way to high school,
stopping at the Eat Good Bakery to get two glazed doughnuts and an
orange juice before heading off to class. When his mother, Cynthia
Fleming, visits his grave, she looks over the low cemetery wall at not
only the bakery but the used-car lot where James used to sell
Christmas trees during the winter and the nursing home where he worked
every summer and says, "Lord, son, you're on your own turf." James,
who died at 23, is buried in Greenwood Cemetery; the owners told
Cynthia they're proud to have him there.
During his short career as a marine, Corporal Jenkins received
many commendations recognizing his "intense desire to excel,"
"unbridled enthusiasm" and "unswerving devotion to duty." It was for
heroic actions performed during a fifty-five-hour battle with the
Mahdi militia in Najaf that Jenkins was awarded a Bronze Star for
valor. The fighting, which began on the city streets in August 2004
and moved into the Wadi al Salam Cemetery, was ferociously personal.
Marines and militiamen were often only yards apart, killing one
another at close range. When the battle was over, eight Americans and
hundreds of militiamen were dead.
After that tour, his second in Iraq, Jenkins could barely sleep.
When he did, the nightmares were horrible. He was plagued by remorse
and depression, unable to be intimate with his fiancée, run ragged by
an adrenaline surge he couldn't turn off.
Back at San Diego's Camp Pendleton the following January, Jenkins
took to gambling, or gambling took to him; he became addicted to
blackjack and pai gow, a fast-moving card game where you can lose your
shirt in a minute. The knife-edge excitement felt comfortingly
familiar. Jenkins went into debt, borrowing thousands of dollars from
payday loan companies. Busted for writing bad checks, he was locked up
in the Camp Pendleton brig that spring pending court-martial. In the
months that followed, he was released, locked up and released again.
He spoke often of suicide. The Marines never diagnosed his
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When his mother called his
command seeking help, Jenkins's first sergeant, who had not served in
Iraq, told Fleming he thought James was using his suicidal feelings to
his advantage. "I have 130 marines to worry about other than your
son," she recalls the sergeant saying. When his command decided to
lock him up a third time, James Jenkins ran.
On September 28, 2005, eight months after returning from Iraq,
Jenkins found himself cornered in the Oceanside apartment he shared
with his fiancée. A deputy sheriff pounded on the front door, while a
US Marshal covered the back. The young man with the "intense desire to
excel" decided he could not go back to the brig or get an
other-than-honorable discharge. He would not shame his family or have
his hard-won achievements and his pride stripped away. And he was in
pain. "He said, 'I can't even shut my eyes,'" his mother says,
recalling one of his calls home that month. "He said, 'I killed 213
people, Mom.' He said, 'I can't live like this.' He said, 'Everything
I worked for is down the drain,' and he was crying like a baby." While
the officers waited for his fiancée to open the door, Jenkins shot
himself in the right temple.
In the wake of Jenkins's suicide, the Marine Corps attempted to
deny death benefits to his mother by claiming he'd died a deserter;
but in a report based on that eligibility investigation, Thomas
Ferguson, a special agent from the Naval Criminal Investigative
Service, described the young man as a "salvageable marine" whose
untreated PTSD had led to his suicide.
"LCpl Jenkins was a bona fide war hero," Ferguson wrote.
"Unfortunately, it is clear that when he most needed help from the
military, the military failed him."
James Jenkins is a casualty of the war in Iraq as much as his
fellow marines who died in that cemetery in Najaf, abandoned by an
organization that has little tolerance for broken marines and is
itself under tremendous stress from sustaining multiple deployments.
"They didn't do anything," his mother says. "They just kept locking
According to civilian and military defense lawyers, mental health
professionals and veterans' advocates, the trajectory of James
Jenkins's postdeployment life, with untreated PTSD leading to
misconduct and then punishment, is all too common in the Marine Corps.
A marine endures one, two, even three tours in Iraq, serves honorably
and well, but returns suffering from combat trauma and starts to drink
or abuse drugs or becomes violent at home, and suddenly finds himself
ostracized, punished and drummed out of the Corps with an
other-than-honorable or bad-conduct discharge. A history of service is
tarnished, and the marine is denied benefits - even the treatment
necessary to recover from combat trauma - and left with only a bitter
sense of betrayal. A Corps review in 2007 of 1,019
other-than-honorable discharges issued to combat veterans during the
first four years of the Iraq War found that fully a third of the
discharged marines had evidence of PTSD or another combat-related
mental illness. Lt. Col. Colby Vokey, the Marine Corps's legal defense
counsel for the western United States, estimates that of all the Iraq
combat veterans his office defends, one-third have PTSD or another
combat-stress mental health issue. Many of these clients have served
at least two tours in Iraq.
The factors leading to the abandonment of combat-broken marines
are both cultural and operational. The Marine Corps is the youngest,
most male, most junior and least married of all the services.
Sixty-six percent of the troops are 25 or younger; 13 percent are
teens; and 39 percent hold the rank of private, private first class or
lance corporal. Fewer than 7 percent are female. The Corps's deeply
macho culture, which values stoicism in the face of pain and disdains
"weakness," makes it hard for marines to seek help. Judith Broder, a
civilian psychiatrist who treats Iraq and Afghanistan vets, says,
"They all know of stories where buddies have asked for help and have
been ridiculed by the chain of command or given some kind of treatment
that is not really adequate and told they have to go back."
This harsh culture is exacerbated by the relentless tempo of
training and deployment, which pressures commanders to quickly replace
broken marines with deployable ones. "You read the Marine Corps values
and you'll find that anybody that gets hurt isn't courageous or
doesn't have honor," Judith Litzenberger, a civilian defense lawyer
and twenty-one-year Navy veteran, explains. "That's how the marines
interpret it: 'I went to Iraq and I didn't whine and I didn't claim
that I had a mental disorder, and damn well marines don't do that - we
suck it up.' And it has to be that way because they have a mission
that's bigger than the number of people they have. They can't spend
all their time taking care of people who have mental disorders.
They've got to wash them out quickly and move on."
The Corps also places more emphasis on discipline than any other
branch of the military. According to USA Today, the Corps prosecutes
close to the same number of troops for misconduct as the Army does,
though it is one-third the size. "I don't think the legal system is
being used improperly according to regulations," Lieutenant Colonel
Vokey says. "The problem is I don't think the system accounts for
these folks with PTSD. There's got to be another way to handle this
without lumping them in with every other marine who commits
misconduct. They were fine when they went to Iraq, we broke them, this
is what combat did to them, and I think we should feel some
responsibility for what happens to them."
Add to these factors the political and financial pressures
surrounding the Iraq War, which have resulted in a mental health
system so underfunded that last year a Pentagon Mental Health Task
Force termed its staffing "woefully inadequate." The Navy, which
provides psychological healthcare to the Marines, has filled only 72
percent of its psychologist billets and 62 percent of its psychiatrist
"The funding has just been awful, the worst I've ever seen in my
twenty years in the military," says Dr. Katherine Scheirman, a retired
Air Force colonel who served as chief of medical operations in the Air
Force's Europe headquarters from July 2004 to September 2006.
Scheirman says the current political environment has made it
"impossible" to give wounded soldiers proper care. "It's all about
money," she says. "Every kid that gets kicked out with PTSD is gonna
be a lifetime of disability payments for the government. Every kid who
gives up and kills himself, nothing." Scheirman's unit was in charge
of evacuating the wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan and transporting
them to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and on to the
United States. She says politics infused every aspect of care. When
she tried to beef up the hospital staff at Landstuhl, she was told,
"No, we can't put more doctors or nurses in there because it will look
like we expect more casualties." She was not allowed to send the
visibly wounded home on commercial planes. "The rule," she says, "was
they couldn't fly commercial if they had injuries that showed because
it would upset the American people." The military planes were so cold
the Air Force ended up running clothing drives for hats, scarves and
mittens - a situation that continues today. In one e-mail requesting
donations, a lieutenant colonel wrote, "Mittens are preferred because
they often fit better over wounded hands/fingers."
"What kind of Army doesn't provide mittens for its wounded
soldiers?" Scheirman asks. "What's sad is this isn't the way it's ever
been before. I came into the military under Reagan, and George Bush's
dad - they treated people well. The Clintons treated people really,
really well. It's only this Administration that acts like the lives of
these soldiers are expendable."
When the fourth Army Mental Health Advisory Team (MHAT IV)
traveled to Iraq in 2006 to assess the mental health of soldiers and
marines in theater, they noted the intensely "personal" nature of duty
there - that is, the high percentage of soldiers and marines who knew
someone seriously wounded or killed and could describe an event that
had caused them "intense fear, helplessness or horror": seeing a
friend liquefied in a tank, being attacked by IEDs, being caught in
the open under sniper fire, "seeing, smelling, touching...dead
people." Last June the Pentagon's Mental Health Task Force reported
that 31 percent of the marines who served in Iraq or Afghanistan are
suffering from traumatic stress, and Marine Corps suicide rates have
been above average since the United States invaded Afghanistan. In
2004 the Corps reported thirty-two active-duty suicides, six of them
from Camp Pendleton.
Marines have not only been heavily deployed during Operation Iraqi
Freedom; they've been sent into some of Iraq's most volatile areas,
and they suffer 25 percent of the casualties, though they make up only
16 percent of ground forces there. "It has long been recognized that
mental health breakdown occurs after prolonged combat exposure, a
considerable number of Soldiers and Marines are conducting combat
operations everyday of the week, 10-12 hours per day...for months on
end," the MHAT IV report explains. "At no time in our military history
have Soldiers or Marines been required to serve on the front line in
any war for a period of 6-7 months, let alone [a] year, without a
significant break in order to recover from the physical,
psychological, and emotional demands that ensue from combat."
Their deployments generally run seven months, though last year
4,000 marines had their tours extended. Once home, they are given up
to thirty days of leave to reconnect with their families, though many
cannot even adjust to sleeping in a bed. Then they are back in
training for their next deployment. The average break between tours is
only six months. According to a mental health counselor at the Marine
Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, California, who
requested anonymity, marines suffering from combat trauma often decide
not to seek counseling because they simply don't have time. Moreover,
they tell the counselor, since they'll just be sent back into combat,
what's the point? "In some way it is miraculous if someone doesn't
have PTSD with these repeated tours," says Judith Broder, the
psychiatrist. She founded The Soldiers Project, which provides free
psychological services to Iraq and Afghanistan vets and their
families, including, currently, several active-duty marines. "There's
this heartbreaking sense these guys express of, 'I don't know who I am
or what I did over there, and I have to hold myself together because
I'm going to have to do it again, so don't try to pull me back into
something soft and sweet. This is not going to do me good.'"
"Maybe we have to recognize that after a deployment or two, you're
not able to deploy anymore because the stresses on the mind are just
too great," says Maj. Haytham Faraj, the lead defense counsel at Camp
Pendleton. The case that made Faraj "the angriest I've ever been at
the Marine Corps" involved a 19-year-old who was severely wounded by a
rocket attack during his first tour in Iraq.
The marine's wounds left him unable to control his bowels, and he
lost sexual function. After being treated at several military
hospitals, he was sent home to his parents on convalescent leave. His
military counsel, former Marine Capt. Melissa Epstein Mills, now in
private practice, says that during those months, the teen was "falling
into the depths of depression dealing with these truly traumatic
injuries and the death of his best friend, who died shortly after he
was hit. [Then] his wife served him with divorce papers while he was
in the hospital. His parents described it as a downward spiral."
When they found themselves unable to help their son, his parents
asked his command at Pendleton to come get him. The 19-year-old
confessed to his company commander that he had been smoking pot while
"He had been on some pretty heavy painkillers and was being
transitioned off," Epstein Mills explains, "but it was [also] a coping
mechanism." The young man's regimental commander recommended him for
an other-than-honorable discharge for drug use, which, Epstein Mills
says, would likely have meant denial of his veterans' benefits -
including mental healthcare - for the rest of his life.
"What a lot of people miss is that, in general, it's totally up to
the commander what happens to their troop," says Scheirman. "They can
send him to the hospital and say, 'Hey, this guy isn't able to do his
work. Would you look at him for PTSD?' Or they can just kick the guy
out." A medical discharge, which is generally under honorable
conditions, can take many months, sometimes longer, and all the while
the commander is stuck with an undeployable marine. An administrative
separation usually takes a few weeks, at most. "If you kick the guy
out, you'll get somebody to replace him," she says. "So that's the
incentive for the commanders."
Epstein Mills and the 19-year-old's Marine Corps lawyer won him a
general discharge under honorable conditions. Unlike an honorable
discharge, it will not qualify him for educational benefits from the
GI Bill, but he'll probably get some medical benefits.
Before Lt. Col. Andrew Horne left Iraq in 2005, where he was the
civil military operations officer for western Anbar province, he and
every marine under him above the rank of staff sergeant attended a
briefing on PTSD given by the division psychiatrist, a Navy officer.
"They said it's been determined that it comes from a feeling of
helplessness, and elite units like Marines don't get it," Horne says.
"And the ones who do get it have usually been discipline problems
before or have a pre-existing problem. So it was really designed to,
one, make you not report it yourself and, two, be suspicious of anyone
who was reporting it."
More than two years later, despite a growing acknowledgment within
the Corps of the mental costs of war, PTSD remains underdiagnosed and
undertreated. At Twentynine Palms, some of the civilian counselors on
base avoid sending marines to division psychology because at least a
dozen marines they referred there for treatment were given
"personality disorder" diagnoses and kicked out of the service [for
more on the personality disorder scandal, see Joshua Kors, April 9 and
October 15, 2007]. Mary Jo Thornton, a licensed family therapist and
former base counselor, remembers one Marine sergeant coming back from
his appointment with the naval psychologist, saying, "Thanks, you
ruined my career. Now they're ad-sepping [administratively separating]
me out of the military. The little guy talked to me for a half-hour
and told me I had a personality disorder." Many active-duty marines go
off base to veterans' centers for counseling, because only there do
they feel safe from punishment.
When Cpl. Michael Cataldi, who served with the Third Light Armored
Reconnaissance Battalion based at Twentynine Palms, returned from his
first deployment, he was angry and depressed. "Helicopters scared me
because I picked up a helicopter crash," he says. "Thirty marines and
one Navy corpsman all died, and we were the first four people there. I
did a body count when I was 20 years old." The pilot was on fire, and
Cataldi had to put him out with a shovel. "I smell burning flesh when
people grill chicken. I can't be in crowds," he says. "This all
happened before I went over the second time."
It took months between deployments for him to get an appointment
with the regimental psychologist, and when he did he sensed the doctor
was trying to talk him out of his symptoms. "He kind of told me, as I
was telling him what I was feeling, that I wasn't really feeling
that," he recalls. Cataldi was diagnosed with anxiety and depression,
not PTSD, given anti-anxiety meds and antidepressants, and sent back
to Iraq. There he was put in charge of the guard at Camp Apache.
After four months the medical officer left Iraq, and suddenly
Cataldi had no more meds. "I had a breakdown," he says. "I even
defecated all over myself, and I don't remember doing it." Cataldi was
evacuated to the combat stress center at Camp Al-Assad, where he was
diagnosed with PTSD and given three weeks of treatment. When he
returned to base, he began to get disciplinary write-ups: one for an
unauthorized absence, the other for allegedly threatening his
executive officer. "They were trying to take my rank and call me a
horrible marine," he says. Cataldi ended up facing a nonjudicial
punishment proceeding and losing half a month's pay. "They thought I
was trying to go home," he says.
When Cataldi returned to the States at the end of his second
deployment, with only a few months left on his service contract, he
stayed low to the ground, afraid his commanders would take his rank or
kick him out. In his last evaluation before leaving the Corps, Cataldi
had a fifteen-minute appointment with the naval psychiatrist on base,
who told him he had "anxiety disorder."
Unlike the Army and the Air Force, almost every Marine and Navy
base has a brig on board, and that makes it easy to use the brig as
storage for a troubled marine. "We think pretrial detention is overly
prescribed," Faraj says. "More often than not it's used as a tool,
because the command doesn't want to deal with someone." Consequently,
marines with mental health problems are not only locked up in a brig
without adequate mental healthcare but are asked to make serious legal
decisions while actively suffering from mental disorders. "I think
doing a court-martial at that time is a setup," Judith Litzenberger,
the civilian defense lawyer, says. "It's totally devoid of due
process. You don't have a client there that you can talk to. We need
some long-term psych hospitals that can treat these guys." The
hospital at Pendleton lost its psych treatment certification a few
years ago and never worked to get it back, so the camp no longer has
an inpatient psychiatric facility. Marines who attempt suicide in the
brig are sent to the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, but the naval
hospital offers only acute care to marines, so once the suicidal
marine is stabilized, he is sent back to jail. Though commanders do
not purposely use pretrial detention to break a marine, that is often
the effect on a marine suffering from PTSD - as it was in the case of
Sgt. Patrick Uloth.
Uloth's command thought "he walked on water," Faraj says. After
two tours in Iraq, they even recommended him for an officer-training
program. "I thought the Marine Corps did no wrong," Uloth recalls. "I
could watch you do something and if the Marine Corps told me you
didn't do it, I believed it. I loved the Marine Corps that damn much."
But untreated PTSD, pretrial detention and official callousness
destroyed his career in the Corps.
It began during his second deployment to Iraq, when Uloth and
members of his unit manning a vehicle checkpoint fired on a car
speeding toward them. "When they went to see what they'd gotten, in
the car were a father and three young kids," Faraj says. "That
troubled him so much that he began to have nightmares, and that's when
the PTSD set in." Two weeks before his tour ended, an explosive-filled
truck detonated at another checkpoint, where Uloth saw two of his
marines die. Under heavy fire, he retrieved the decapitated head and
body of his best friend. Then he held the hand of a dying 19-year-old
marine and told him he was going to be OK.
Once Uloth's unit returned to Pendleton, he began to suffer from
PTSD, depression and "conversion disorder," characterized by
flashback-related seizures. Each time he tried to see the unit
psychiatrist, he was given an appointment weeks away - a typical wait,
according to Faraj. Uloth decided to go home to New Orleans, where he
checked himself into the psychiatric ward at a nearby Air Force
hospital. After forty-five days, the Marines sent chasers to pick him
up. Back at Pendleton, he was charged with unauthorized absence (UA)
and thrown into the brig.
There, Uloth was put in isolation, stripped to his underwear for
up to twenty-four hours a day and was so heavily medicated he felt
like a "zombie." Once a month he was taken in handcuffs and leg
shackles to see a psychiatrist. Faraj wanted to go to trial, sure that
they could beat the charges. But after two months in the brig, Uloth
told him, "I can't take it anymore. You got to get me out." Faraj's
plea agreement included a reduction in rank to corporal and a general
discharge under honorable conditions.
While Uloth waited for his discharge to come through, he was
transferred to a new unit. When a marine faces misconduct proceedings,
he is often transferred from his parent company to a headquarters
unit. The people he served with in Iraq were busy training for
redeployment or were back overseas, and the rear command knew him only
as a marine charged with substance abuse or UA, another one of "the
broke, lame and lazy." In the new unit, Uloth, an experienced
sergeant, was subject to daily ridicule and assigned to pick up trash.
Uloth told Faraj he couldn't take it. Faraj told him to hang in
there, but a few days later, Faraj got a call from the unit's first
sergeant, asking if he knew where Uloth was. Six months after that,
Uloth was picked up again in New Orleans, this time on a DUI, and
thrown back into the Pendleton brig.
The previous terms of his discharge were voided, but Uloth told
Faraj, "Any way you can get me out, I just want out." Uloth was
separated with an other-than-honorable discharge, with all direct
medical benefits denied him, his history of faithful service erased.
Now Uloth cannot afford medication to control his seizures, so he
just "wings it" and has ended up in various emergency rooms. He uses
alcohol to put himself to sleep. Recently, several of the marines who
served with him in Iraq tracked him down. "We all served in combat
together and all of them have the same problems," Uloth says. "They've
all been diagnosed with PTSD, their lives are upside down, a lot of
them have tried committing suicide, a lot of them are alcoholics, they
can't keep a marriage or a relationship, everybody's lives are shitholes."
The Marine Corps has always taken pride in caring for its own, but
its efforts to take care of mentally wounded marines have
overwhelmingly failed, plagued by denial, machismo, an unrealistic war
tempo and a severe shortage of resources. In the spring of 2007 the
Corps set up the Wounded Warrior Regiment, where marines suffering
from physical and mental injuries could be tracked and supported. "I
spoke with the guy at Quantico who was going to be running this
warrior regiment," says Steve Robinson, a Gulf War veteran and
veterans' advocate. "And one of the first things he said that made me
sit up in my chair was, 'Look, we don't want to diagnose marines with
PTSD. We need them to get back into the fight. Call it something else,
whatever you want to call it, and then we try to retrain them.'"
Robinson told him, "Well, that's great, but the DSM-IV [Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders] clearly states that if
they have these signs and symptoms, they should be diagnosed."
When members of President Bush's Commission on Care for America's
Returning Wounded Warriors visited Pendleton last spring, they spoke
with a group of marines housed in the wounded warrior barracks who
said they felt they were being punished for being wounded. The marines
pointed to the sterile living environment, rigid rules banning rest in
their rooms during the day and menial tasks assigned to those well
enough to work. In his report to the President's commission, Lt. Col.
Leslie Chip Pierce said visitors from the commission "were taken to a
location in the barracks known to these wounded warriors as the
petting zoo." At the camp's Behavioral Health Clinic, the staff
expressed "frustration" too, saying, according to the report, that
"line commanders are not always committed to PTSD identification and
treatment once they have returned to home base."
After the Marine Corps conducted its review of less-than-honorable
discharges, Navy Capt. William Nash, who coordinates the Marines'
combat stress program, recommended, according to USA Today, that "any
marine or sailor who commits particularly uncharacteristic misconduct
following deployment...be aggressively screened for stress disorders
and treated." Almost a year later, the Navy and Marine Corps have yet
to implement these screenings. They simply don't have the manpower.
More than two years have passed since James Jenkins's death, which
Lieutenant Colonel Vokey describes as a "terrible tragedy" that should
never have occurred. It was three months after returning from Iraq, in
April 2005, that Jenkins first complained of depression and was
referred to Division Psychology. There he was diagnosed with
"adjustment disorder," which meant he would not receive treatment for
PTSD. He was then given Ambien to help him sleep and an antianxiety
drug, Ativan - and declared fit for duty.
The Ambien didn't help, and he took himself off Ativan. On May 5
he asked for help with his depression again. He was told to continue
At the end of that month, Jenkins was confined to the brig to
await his court-martial. While there, he filled out a Chronological
Record of Medical Care, checking the "yes" box after the question
"Have you had any thoughts of injuring yourself or others?" Beside
that box, Jenkins wrote, "Combat, Kill the enemy." Still he received
no mental healthcare. The medical officer merely noted, "PT [patient]
has hx [history] of Adjustment D/O [disorder] with depression and
Cynthia Fleming kept calling the first sergeant, trying to get her
son help. "I told him my son was going to kill himself. They told me
the brig was a form of suicide watch. I said, 'That's a jail.'"
Inside the brig, the situation took a bizarre turn. Another jailed
marine, a gunny sergeant, tried to hire Jenkins to kill five people
and kidnap another sergeant's daughter. Jenkins informed his lawyer
and was released in order to work as an informer. But when he began to
gamble again and cash worthless checks, he was rearrested. Because his
life would have been at risk inside Pendleton, Jenkins was locked up
in the Miramar brig instead. A judge quickly released him, but his
command decided to send him back to the brig at Pendleton. "Of course,
he's petrified of the guy who he's reporting on and being back in the
brig with him," Vokey says. "That's when he took off."
Jenkins stole a gun from an Oceanside pistol range, a gun with one
bullet, he told his mother on the phone. She called his unit; the
defense lawyers called, too. "We had talked to the unit, trying to get
them to go find this kid because he was going to kill himself, and
didn't get a lot of compassion," Vokey says. "They were just fed up
Fleming told her son she could fly out to California the next day.
"Tomorrow will be too late," he said. "Tell everybody I'm sorry. Tell
my sisters, tell my brother, tell my nieces, I'm so sorry. All I
wanted to do is make you proud."
When Fleming arrived at Scripps Memorial Hospital, James was
brain-dead. Two noncommissioned officers were in the room with her,
one of them James's first sergeant. Fleming told the nurses, "See that
sergeant right there? He said my son was using this to his advantage.
But look at my baby now."
His command gave up on him, but Jenkins never gave up on the
marines - not when it counted. The citation accompanying his Bronze
Star reads, in part, "With the squad pinned down under intense enemy
fire in the Najaf cemetery, he moved along the lines to reestablish
communication with Company B. When he reached their position, four
enemy militiamen located to his direct front attacked. Without regard
for his own well being, Lance Corporal Jenkins climbed on top of a
tomb and fired directly down at the enemy.... After eliminating the
four militiamen, he returned to the squad's position and directed an
attack that destroyed four additional enemy combatants. He continued
to risk his own safety as he covered the withdrawal of his fellow
Marines to friendly lines."
These days, Cynthia Fleming rarely goes into the storage room
where she keeps James's belongings; the scent of him lingering on his
clothes is too painful. "But one day I went out there and I picked up
his boots that were in a box, and when I picked up his boots, the
Iraqi sand fell out, and I lost it," she says. "His boots was so worn
you could tell that boy did some fighting and running over there in Iraq."
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