Marine Corporal James T Jenkins, a Hamilton Township native, served two tours in Iraq.
Rockets and mortars rained down on the Najaf cemetery. Snipers hid among the tombs, firing on the U.S. Marines charged with clearing the area. Members of 1st platoon were pinned down. Over 55 hours in August 2004, Cpl. James T. Jenkins and the men of Company C, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, engaged in a fierce battle with the Mahdi Militia, the army loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
As told in his Bronze Star citation, Jenkins made his way from his stranded squad to re-establish contact with another unit, which promptly came under attack. “His courage while under intense enemy fire inspired the Marines under his charge and spearheaded the Battalion’s assault into a known enemy strongpoint,” the citation reads. Jenkins received several more commendations before leaving Iraq, but his battlefield successes would come at a cost.
Over time, Jenkins became more unglued. At Camp Pendleton, he took up gambling, wagering away his paychecks in all-night card games. His mother, Cynthia Fleming, said her son was so wracked by nightmares that he sometimes chose not to sleep. When he came home to New Jersey on leave from Camp Pendleton, in southern California, he seemed hyper-alert, as if worried that some enemy might burst into the kitchen of his mother’s home in the Burlington County town of Eastampton. “He was so jumpy,” his mother said.”I learned I had to alert him before coming into a room.” Other times, he would become unresponsive, lost in his thoughts. And there were the flashbacks, terrifying to behold. “His eyes,” she said. “They looked real far away. That’s how I knew he wasn’t really here. He was still in Iraq.”
Cpl James T Jenkins lost his battle with PTSD, September 28, 2005, in Oceanside, California. He was 23 years old.