Home again, home again…and they’re happy

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 17, 2003

Seven-year-old Mary Jenkins runs toward the arms of her father, Col. Rick Jenkins, upon his arrival at the Jackson International Airport Thursday night.(Melanie Duncan Thortis The Vicksburg Post)

[10/17/03]JACKSON Even bystanders joined the cheers as 7-year-old Mary Jenkins gave her father a big hug when he arrived home Thursday from six months in Iraq and Kuwait.

Not only was Col. Rick Jenkins greeted by his family and co-workers with hugs, flags, homemade signs, balloons and bows, the crowd of about 30 people who just happened to be in the airport roared with applause.

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Jenkins, overseas since April 6, is deputy commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Mississippi Valley Division.

His job overseas was to help restabilize Iraqi oil fields, and though thrilled to be home, Jenkins said he’ll be thinking about his colleagues he left and the challenges they face.

“It was hard to leave the team behind, but they’re doing great work and making progress every day,” he said. “And I’ll be worried about them.”

They’ll be on his mind, but so will his wife, Clare, and his children, Matthew, 15, Catherine, 16, and Mary. He plans to take a couple of weeks’ vacation to do things around the house and attend a family reunion at an Army football game.

And another thing on Jenkins’ mind besides his family and getting rest: baseball. Clare Jenkins and co-workers joked that the lifelong New York Yankees fan had timed his arrival just right in time to watch his team battle in baseball’s World Series.

And after the vacation, it will be back to work and business as usual. But work can’t be too bad when co-workers are friends.

“He’s done a great job of letting the people of Iraq experience what we experience and take for granted, freedom from oppression,” said Stephen Gambrell, executive assistant with the Mississippi Valley Division. “So we’re really proud of him.”

Colleagues presented Jenkins with bags of candy, a Martina McBride CD, a C.S. Lewis book and another called a “read-ahead” book.

When an officer gets an assignment, he or she gets such a book that gives background information about the assignment and need-to-know information.

Jenkins’ co-workers presented him with a “read-ahead” chock full of tips on adjusting to life back in the United States. For example, some tips include how to understand a stop light (red means stop), and how he’ll no longer have to ration his food.

Clare Jenkins said the Iraqi deployment was his third in five years.

“He always goes whenever he’s called,” she said. “He never blinks. He just goes. Hopefully he won’t go again for a while.”

But Jenkins said, “I’m home for good.”

Also arriving home this week are Joyce Montague, an administrative assistant for the Division, and Myron Fancher, a mechanical engineer with the Vicksburg District.