Reuben Darby and David Jensen have a story that spans over 30 years. Each one of them wrote a letter sharing their perspective on what bound them together, which interestingly, is represented by a piece of equipment…a half pack (backpack) that passed through each of their hands and also the hands of David’s older brother, Alan.
Letter from Reuben Darby
In April 1967 I lost an argument with an enemy mine while on a reconnaissance patrol west of the Chu Lai Tactical Area of Operational Responsibility. To expedite the subsequent medical evacuation, my teammates stripped me of most of my gear, including my pack. I wound up at a series of Stateside hospitals. The pack wound up back in the 1st Force Recon supply system, where it was issued to another Marine: Sergeant Alan Jensen.
Tragically, in October 1967, Sgt. Jensen, as leader of Team Petrify, was one of two killed in action during a firefight lopsided enough to warrant two infantry reaction forces. When Sgt. Jensen’s body was recovered, the pack with my name still printed on it was sent home with other personal effects and ended up in the hands of Alan’s younger brother, David.
David joined the Marine Corps in 1968 and served active and Reserve until 1977. Later, he took the pack on occasional hunting trips and every now and then wondered who the hell Darby was. Then in May 2005, the Sound Off editor published my take on the endless debate over civilian gratitude for Vietnam veterans. David Jensen read the letter, recognized the name and called me, wanting me to have the pack after 38 years.
My construction office is plastered with pictures and mementos of my time in the Marine Corps and tours in Vietnam. That pack is now the centerpiece. Sgt. David Jensen’s actions speak to the special meaning of our brotherhood
Sgt. Reuben Darby, USMC (Ret)
Letter from David Jensen
I joined the Marine Corps in 1968. I think of it as a beginning. I always wanted to be a Marine because of the training and skills to be learned. The experience shaped me for life. My brother, Alan, was a role model. He taught me a lot about the outdoors growing up. When I went in, Nam was getting hot and after losing one son, I’m sure my parents were concerned, however, they were proud Marine Corps parents and were always supportive. The American flag and Marine Corps flag flew from our house daily when I was growing up and it still does now.
When I read the article in Leatherneck (the magazine for Marines) that Darby wrote, I called him. His name was on the pack and I wanted to return it to him. It was pretty cool how it all happened. I ended up making another brother Marine friend.
There’s definitely a strong connection that exists among Marines. There’s nothing more important in a fire fight than the Marine on port and starboard and the ones forward and aft. We fight for each other first. That holds true even when you leave the service in many different ways. You’re never an ex-Marine, always a former Marine. There’s a sense of family and community.
I serve with many Army and Navy veterans along with former Marines in the two veteran groups I volunteer with. There’s a veteran brotherhood alive and well out here. When talking with returning members of the Guard and those departing active duty, I try to stress the importance of staying connected, whether that be Active Reserves or working with other veterans. It can serve as a life line. Staying involved has many positive results. You can make new acquaintances and may even happen upon business opportunities. Besides, someone has to set an example and lead.
David A. Jensen
*At the bottom right of the two page spread at the top of this post, there is a photo of David’s brother Alan Jensen and his fellow Marine James Huff. The caption reads – Sgt. Alan T. Jensen with Sgt. James E. Huff in early October 1967. (Sgt. Huff was KIA October 27, 1967 ten days after Sgt. Jensen)