A Journal For Jordan: A Story Of Love And Honor by Dana CanedyA Journal For Jordan: A Story Of Love And Honor by Dana Canedy

A Journal For Jordan: A Story Of Love And Honor

byDana Canedy

Paperback | October 13, 2009

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"This book is a gift, and not only to Jordan."–USA Today

In 2005, First Sergeant Charles Monroe King began to write what would become a two-hundred-page journal for his son in case he did not make it home from the war in Iraq. He was killed by a roadside bomb on October 14, 2006. His son, Jordan, was seven months old. A Journal for Jordan is a mother’s letter to her son about the father he lost before he could even speak–including a fiercely honest account of her search for answers about Charles’s death. It is also a father’s advice and prayers for the son he will never know. Finally, this is the story of Dana and Charles together–two seemingly mismatched souls who loved each other deeply and lost each other too soon.
DANA CANEDY is a senior editor at the New York Times, where she has been a journalist for twelve years. In 2001, she was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting for "How Race Is Lived in America," a series on race relations in the United States. Raised near Fort Knox, she lives in New York City with her son, Jo...
Title:A Journal For Jordan: A Story Of Love And HonorFormat:PaperbackDimensions:296 pages, 8.02 × 5.23 × 0.63 inPublished:October 13, 2009Publisher:Crown/ArchetypeLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0307396002

ISBN - 13:9780307396006


Read from the Book

OneDear Jordan,If you are reading this book, it means that we got through thesorrowful years, somehow, and that you are old enough to understandall that I am about to tell you.You are just ten months old now, but I am writing this for theyoung man you will be. By then, you will know that your father wasa highly decorated soldier who was killed in combat in October2006, when a bomb exploded beneath his armored vehicle in Iraq.You were six months old.You will know that he left a journal for you, more than two hundredpages long, which he handwrote in neat block letters in that hot,terrifying place. What I want to tell you is how the journal came to beand what it leaves unsaid about your father and our abiding love.Before he kissed my swollen stomach and left for the war inDecember 2005, your father, U.S. Army First Sergeant CharlesMonroe King, had been preparing for the promise of your newlife and for the possible end of his own. Even before he boardedthat plane headed for danger, I worried that he would be killed. SoI gave him a journal. I hoped he would write a few messages, perhapssome words of encouragement to you, though you were notyet born, in case he died before you knew each other.We did a lot to prepare for the possibility that your fatherwould miss out on your life, including finding out if you were aboy or a girl before he left; he was thrilled to have an image ofyou in his mind and kept your sonogram pictures in a pocket inhis uniform the whole time he was in Iraq.And then there was the journal. Writing it would be a way foryour dad to help guide you through life if he did not make it hometo us. He wanted you to know to pick up the check on a date, totake plenty of pictures on vacations, to have a strong work ethic,and to pay your bills on time. He wanted to tell you how to dealwith disappointment, to understand the difference between loveand lust, to remember to get on your knees and pray every day.Most of all, he wanted you to know how much he loved us.So, late into the night in Iraq, after he had completed dangerousand often deadly missions, your dad returned hungry and exhaustedto the relative calm of his room and wrote to you before heslept. His grammar was not perfect and his handwriting at timessuggested that he was tired or rushed. But he put so much thoughtinto the beautiful messages he wrote, things like:Be humble about your accomplishments, work harderthan the man next to you, it is all right for boys to cry.Sometimes crying can release a lot of pain and stress.Never be ashamed to cry. It has nothing to do withyour manhood.Your father mailed the journal to me in July 2006, shortly afterone of his young soldiers was killed in an explosion eerily similar tothe one that would claim his own life. He was so shaken afterpulling the young man’s body, piece by piece, out of a bombedtank that he sent the journal to me, unfinished. He had more to say,but that would have to wait until he came home on a two- weekleave to meet you, six weeks before he died.I read the journal in the calm of night on the day it arrived, withyou sleeping next to me, and fell in love with my gentle warrior allover again. He was the most honorable man I have ever known,and the most complex. I do not want to portray your dad as a saintwhose example you could never live up to. He was not. He wasgentle, benevolent, and loyal, but he could also be moody, stubborn,and withholding. He would brood for days over a perceivedslight, like the time I spent my birthday with my sisters and girlfriendsinstead of with him. He put his military service ahead of hisfamily.I also want you to understand me— an imperfect woman whodeeply loved her man but struggled during our long courtship toaccept him as he was. We were together for the better part of adecade, half of which he spent waiting for me to fall in love withhim. Truth be told, every girl has an image of the man with whomshe will walk down the aisle one day, and he was not the groom Ihad imagined. He was excruciatingly introverted, a procrastinator,and got his news, God forgive him, from television instead of theNew York Times, where I have worked as a journalist for more thaneleven years.I am loquacious, assertive, and impatient, which mostlyamused your father but sometimes annoyed him. I am also obstinateand impulsive. My weight fluctuates when I am stressed. Icurse in traffic.I had a demanding career as a reporter when I met your father,while he was away for months at a time in the wilderness, trainingyoung men for battle. A former drill sergeant, he had a strong senseNof duty. He was so devoted to his troops, many just out of highschool, that he bailed them out of jail, taught them to balance theircheckbooks, and even advised them about birth control. I learnedto live with his long silences and ambivalence toward newspapers.But I struggled to understand what motivated the man who had forso long dreamed of your birth but chose to miss it because he believedhis soldiers needed him more. He refused to take his leavefrom Iraq until all 105 of his men had gone home first.Your father was bound to the military not only by a sense ofduty, but because it had expanded his world. The soldiers hetrained, and trained with, came from coal mining towns in WestVirginia, the Bronx in New York City, seaside villages in PuertoRico. He met former surfers, men who shared his love for theBible, and women he revered for excelling in a male- dominated institution.He traveled through Europe while stationed in Germany.He practiced his Spanish while working with Cubanrefugees at Guantanamo Bay. He wrote in the journal:Enlisting in the army was one of the best decisions Ihad ever made in my life. God blessed me above allI could imagine. Like anything, you have somechallenging days, but when I look back I have noregrets. The army even recognized my artistic abilities.I also met a lot of great people. It’s been an awesomeexperience. Thanks, God.But those were peacetime experiences. The military had alsointroduced Charles to killing and death. The sight of blood gavehim flashbacks. Chemical sprays he received during the FirstGulf War left permanent splotches on his arms. For years hewas haunted by images of combat, unable to speak about themeven to me.During his final tour of duty, he experienced loss of the worstkind. His goal was to bring every one of his men home alive;he even made that promise to many of their wives. It was a vow hecould not keep. Still, he never questioned the rightness of a singlemission. For Charles, the war was not about “weapons of massdestruction” or an “axis of evil”; I never heard him speak thosewords. It was about leading the soldiers he had trained by example,about honor and dignity, and about protecting a country he lovedfrom enemies real or imagined.I am proud of your dad’s honor and dignity— even of the wayhe died. Son, all of us will leave this world, but so few die a hero’sdeath.Still, the would- be wife and new mother in me are angryat times that he left us so early, at the age of forty- eight. Was itheroic or foolish that he volunteered for the mission that killedhim?As the daughter of an army veteran, I grew up on or near militarybases and after I left for college wanted no more of that life.So for years I resisted getting deeply involved with your father,and much of our long- distance romance involved him chasingme and me pushing him away. We dated other people at times, meout of a fear of committing to your father, him out of frustrationwith my dithering. Ultimately, it was his steadiness, his character,and his sureness about who he was and what he stood for thatwon me over, something you will get to know by reading thejournal.NListen to your first thought. You will figure this out onyour own. Never second- guess yourself. When yourheart is in the right place, always go with your firstthought. Work hard at things and follow your instinct.Since you were born, you have always been alert. Thatmeans you will be very perceptive about things. BelieveGod and trust yourself. Keep the faith, Jordan. Youwill be fine.Your dad wanted so badly for you to know him that he revealedhimself in the journal in a way he rarely did in person. He told youthings about himself that I never knew. He wrote that he wanted tosee the Great Wall of China and to take guitar lessons. He wentinto detail about his love of art, his religious faith, and his childhoodin Cleveland. I laughed as I pictured my soldier wearingstack- heeled shoes and bell- bottom pants in junior high school.My favorite stack- heeled shoes were bought from ashoe store called Thom McCann. They were blackpatent leather with a suede heel. Now Grandma Kingwould always say stack- heeled shoes were no good foryour back. I guess I had to learn the hard way. I waswalking downtown and glanced over at my reflectionin a department store window. I was walking hunchedlike an old man. I had to throw them away.Until I read the journal I did not know that your father sang inthe youth choir at his multicultural Methodist church, was a lifelongCleveland Browns fan, and had his first kiss in the eighthgrade with a girl named Denise.I walked her home after school and she thanked me bygiving me a kiss. I was a little taken back by it. Beingin the eighth grade, it was a big step for me. All thegirls were always smiling at me and joking around.I remember buying a brand- new baseball jacket.I took it to school and let all the girls sign it and puttheir phone numbers on it. I had the jacket in my roomand Grandma King grabbed it thinking it was dirtyand washed it. I rushed home from school, anxious toread my jacket, when I saw Grandma King hangingup my clean jacket. Grandma laughed. I was on myknees crying.Your dad was an extraordinarily disciplined man. He believedthat sweating on a five- mile run was the best way to shake a cold.He picked the skin off chicken, would not drink more than one ortwo beers in a night, and did not allow himself to binge on the pastrieshe loved because he so closely watched his diet.Despite his regimented manner, there was so much depth toyour father’s character. He had a mind for war strategy but drewangels bowed in prayer. He spent hours sculpting a taut body, evenstarting his days in Iraq in a gym at 5 a.m., but he loved my morethan-ample curves and had the softest skin I have ever touched. Hegave away copies of his art to soldiers he respected but wouldshout his throat raw when they made mistakes in training thatcould cost them their lives in combat. “When he yelled, youmoved,” one of the officers he served with said in a eulogy at his funeral.“Because he only yelled when there was good reason.”This tough guy was the same man who liked to feed me champagne,popcorn, and chocolate in bed. The man who loved you sodearly that during the two weeks he had with you that August— theonly two weeks— he barely slept. He preferred to spend that toobrieftime dancing around with you in his arms, taking you to thebookstore for story time, and simply watching you sleep. He rarelydiscussed his personal life at work, but after he died his soldierssaid that they knew that when he was “working” in his office, hewas often gazing at pictures of us.His imposing presence was really a mask for his shyness.Simple things brought him pleasure: drawing pictures of me, startingthe day in prayer, summer rainstorms.Sometimes you get lucky and catch a rainbow.I never knew the fierce warrior who led those troops, and I wassometimes a mystery to him, too. He thought I talked things todeath. He read my newspaper stories if I asked him to, but he hadno concept of how I could report and write about somethingmomentous, a murder trial or a space shuttle explosion, in anafternoon. He also never understood how I could splurge on a diamondtennis bracelet but go to three stores to find the best price onmustard. He thought I sometimes expected too much of him,which perhaps I did.Still, we were in love. By the time he received his orders forIraq in December 2004, we were finally ready to be a family. Wedecided to have you. At forty years old, I got pregnant in onepassionate weekend when your father was on a break fromtraining.Then, in the dusk of an early spring day nearly four monthsafter he left for Iraq, I lay in a hospital bed giving birth to you,wracked by a pain so intense I did not think my body could endureit. I could not know that only six months later I would fall to thefloor screaming from a pain more wrenching than childbirth,when I learned that your father had been killed. That night Ireached for your journal, and I have read it a hundred times since.I find new insights every time.Your father had waited a long time for a son and wanted to bethe kind of father you could admire. He had tried to be a goodfather to Christina, his daughter from a marriage that had endedin divorce, and it had always pained him that he didn’t spendmore time with her.To be a good father I think you have to be a goodprovider. That’s not all. You should be a goodcommunicator who has open views, accepts changingtimes. Be around for significant events. Be there toencourage you in whatever endeavors you desire.A good father always makes himself available.From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

"This book is a gift, and not only to Jordan."—USA Today“Heartfelt…Canedy used her skills as a reporter to dig beneath the official story of King's death…These investigative passages are gripping…King died a hero's death, but Canedy's embrace of life is a kind of heroism, too.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer“Gut-wrenching… Canedy writes with the objective eye of a hard-line reporter yet manages to convey the complexities of the love between her and her fiance as well as the deep loss she feels in his absence. It's impossible to imagine what her pain is like, but she does a beautiful job of allowing us to come close.”—Washington Post“Canedy's memoir speaks to military families everywhere…By openly and honestly revealing her side of their highly emotional story as well, by detailing the effects of his death on her and subsequent interactions with government brass about burial and benefits, for example…she gives the project a greater significance, making it especially relevant for and meaningful to countless others in similar situations.”—San Francisco Chronicle“Powerful… Not all great love stories are ignited by the lightning bolt of love at first glance; this humbler I’m-going-to-talk-myself-into-this-good-man version is believable and real….A Journal for Jordan is impossible to read without a sense of bitter knowledge that this principled man fell at the behest of leaders less guided by honor. That is no trick O. Henry ending. It is a denouement full of suffering, worthy of Chekhov.”—Melissa Fay Greene, New York Times“A hauntingly beautiful account of a family fractured by war…filled with vivid and heartbreaking details…Canedy's talent at evoking character makes the account of King’s life and death not simply a story about the injustice of war, but a project in resurrection. Canedy allows King to come alive for her son and, to our benefit, for us…Gripping…important.”—New York Times Book Review“It's impossible not to be affected by her story.”—Entertainment Weekly"At once inspiring and ineffably sad . . . Canedy captures the unique magnificence of the man she loved in a way that brings the beginnings of an understanding to the losses that other families bear."—Denver Post"This tragic story of love and war reminds all Americans that we are fortunate to have people like Sgt. Charles King, willing to die for our country. Dana Canedy bears witness to the enduring power of love, to Sgt. King's heroism and his unfailing devotion to his family and his men." —Caroline Kennedy"This book is a living, breathing legacy. It's full of wonderful treasures offered by a unique and spirited father, whose loving words of wisdom to his infant son are a rite of passage that will transform us all. It is written with serene grace: part memoir, part love story, all heart."—James McBride, author of The Color of Water“Dana Canedy's moving memoir has captured my heart and won't let it go. Courageous in its honesty and at times unsettling, it draws us deep into the soul of a woman in love, the pain of her loss and the unpardonable theft of hopes and dreams, lives and futures stolen by war. With an exquisite voice, Canedy recounts moments of intense emotion that haunt us long after savoring the last lines. I didn't want it to end.” —Susan L. Taylor, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus, Essence, and founder of the National CARES Mentoring MovementFrom the Hardcover edition.