Americans in Wartime Experience
March 29, 2021
I stood with my mom and my two brothers on an outside viewing deck on that sunny day in 1971, anxiously waiting for my dad to get off the plane. It had been 12 months since we last saw him. I was now 6 years old, and it had been a difficult year without dad while we lived with my grandparents on the family farm in LA, Lower Alabama. My fierce young mom had to handle us three boys for a second 12-month tour within five years while my dad was in Vietnam. Our only communication with him during these times was letters and recorded reel to reel audio recordings for each other. We could hear his voice and he could hear ours. We knew he anxiously awaited our correspondence many oceans away.

Today though, Dad was coming home! Finally, we saw Dad walking down the stairs of the plane and our hearts began to beat faster with a sense of anticipation, joy, and relief. We were waiting for him on the other side of the fence to come join us. But Dad stopped…knelt down …. and kissed the ground. I looked at mom and asked, “What was daddy doing? Why is he kissing the ground?” She replied with tears running down her face, “He is just so happy and thankful to be home!” I will never forget that day.

Dad began his career in the Army National Guard as a 15-year-old. He was a very tall, stout teenager and appeared much older. He was living in a difficult home life and knew he had to get out. He stretched the truth, of course, about his age to get into the guard. When they finally figured out his true age, he had to go to boot camp all over again. When Dad returned from Vietnam, he continued to serve his country in the United States Army for a total of 24 years.

During all of our childhood, we moved all over the country and finally landed in Dale City, Virginia. Dad finished his decorated career in 1979 at the Pentagon. We managed to stay here until he retired. He started another career with Fairfax County Public Schools in IT, while at the same time becoming appointed and then elected to the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. That young soldier brought all of his love for country and desire to serve to the young thriving Prince William County community. He retired from FCPS after 23 years and continued serving on the Board in Prince William County as the longest serving county supervisor of 37 years until he passed away in 2019.

His life in the political arena allowed Dad the opportunity to establish many critical relationships which would serve both Prince William County and the Commonwealth. Allan Cors reached out to Dad as a board member with the idea of the Americans in Wartime Museum. Out of a shared vision to educate, honor, and inspire all Americans regarding those who have served in all branches of the United States Military, Dad wholeheartedly supported Allan’s vision. Dad reached out to Cecil D. Hylton with the hope of land donation, and he generously agreed.

My dad, Lt. Col. John D. Jenkins, thankfully made it back from Vietnam and our family would forever be shaped and influenced by his sacrificial service to our country. To my Dad and Mom, and generations of soldiers and their families who have served at home and abroad, a grateful nation says, “Thank You for Your Service!”

Welcome Home Dad!
The Americans in Wartime Experience explores the impact of war and conflict on America since WWI. It honors those who served in the military and on the home front and highlights the values they demonstrated in serving – duty, honor, and courage. It examines how periods of conflict have profoundly shaped American society. It educates visitors about the costs of war, both on a personal and social level. It challenges visitors to remember the service and sacrifices made by their fellow citizens to preserve and defend our freedoms. LEARN MORE

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