I’m a patriotic person, a proud American.Unfortunately, it sometimes takes certain events to show that we’re all one.Our unity is often suppressed until a crystallizing moment like 9/11, the Boston Marathon Bombing or when our liberties are being heavily imposed on.It’s in those moments that the best of us rise to defend our country.
Joining the military provides a focused sense of purpose.It gives you a chance to represent something that’s bigger than yourself. You represent something massive…the entire United States.It’s like joining the ultimate super team and striving to be the best of the best on the largest platform one can imagine.
Many civilians envy you because you did something that requires great fortitude.A lot of people don’t have the courage to pursue those type of ambitions.
I want you to know you’re sincerely appreciated.The sacrifice you chose to make particularly during deployments is both notable and commendable.Whatever civilians contributed to the effort stateside pales in comparison to the sacrifice you made in choosing to serve the United States.Thank you.
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)
I’ve been involved in scouting for many years. “Do a good turn daily” is the Boy Scout slogan. Bottom line, I was encouraged to be a good person…trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave clean and reverent. That’s what I try to project into the world each day.
The concept of public service is an important focus in the Boy Scouts and it’s a theme that’s also seen in the military. There are many retired military men in my family, primarily Marines. Right now, we have one family member on active duty. I thought seriously about joining myself before I started college last year.
Military service is a 100% worthy thing to do with your life. When you join, you do so knowing you face war and you do it willingly because you believe in what we all want. In America, we have individual liberties and freedoms that people in other countries can only dream of. You work to protect those freedoms and to protect other people’s families along with your own. That’s really impressive to me. I think you are heroes. I’m very thankful for what you do.
Derek W. (Eagle Scout, college student, outdoorsman – Age 19)
After so many years we’ve seen a lot of changes. We’ve seen a lot of battles, we’ve seen a lot of war. We’ve seen a lot of goodness, we’ve seen a lot of evil but mostly, we’ve seen a lot of sacrifice. To me, our freedom comes from those sacrifices. I created a painting of a soldier returning home and tried to capture the sacrifice that the soldier made. The eagle in this painting is flying over that sacrifice which was made in the name of God and country and freedom. What it’s all about is unconditional love and going beyond the call of duty which is what the world needs right now more than anything. I want the people who defend this country to know that there are people out there who care.
Hidden Words – The words at the bottom of the painting say, “OUR FREEDOM COMES NOT FROM THE GENEROSITY OF THE STATE, BUT FROM THE HAND OF GOD.”
Tie a Yellow Ribbon – The soldier is returning home. He looks over at the picture, drawn by his daughter, nailed to a telephone pole with a yellow ribbon tied right below it. She writes “In God We Trust” and “I Love You Dad.”
In Honor Of – Between the soldier and the town are ghosts of policemen, firemen and soldiers honoring him for fighting for what they gave their lives for.
Kinship – One soldier was his buddy, wearing the same deployment patch he is.
In Formation – As your eye follows the four telephone wires towards the town then beyond, you’ll see four snow lines going up into the mountains. At the end of the lines are four F-16 fighters flying in the Missing Soldier Formation.
From Ashes – Between the 3rd and 4th jet are the 3 firemen raising the flag in front of the remnants of the twin towers in Manhattan.
Raising the Flag – To the right of the 4th jet are the soldiers raising the flag at Iwo Jima.
Defenders – On one side of the main telephone pole, in the mountain, is Mother Teresa, who gave her life to the poorest of the poor. On the other side is Dr. Martin Luther King, who gave his life defending freedom.
World Peace – In the snowiest part of the mountain, to the left, is the Pentagon. World peace is defended there daily. In flight, below the Pentagon is United Flight 93. On the side of the plane, in the immortal words of civilian Todd Beamer it says, “Let’s Roll.”
Summit – At the top of the mountain is the American flag. In the sky is our nation’s symbol, the bald eagle, soaring to great heights over all the sacrifices in the name of God, country and freedom.
To compile letters from American citizens (both with and without a military background) to our veterans which will be published in book form and distributed in the community, thereby providing a unique way to acknowledge and support veterans who might otherwise never know that the work they did on our behalf is appreciated.
“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” (William Arthur Ward)
May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night and a smooth road all the way to your door. (Irish Blessing)