Story by Sgt. 1st Class Kimberly Calkins
ORANGEBURG, S.C. – While standing in formation, Soldiers listened to the story about a fallen Soldier, a local man from Cordova, South Carolina. Many of the Soldiers had heard the story before, but today was a day to honor his service.
Soldiers with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade attended the fourth annual Appreciation Luncheon for Veterans, Nov. 5, 2016, at the Orangeburg National Guard Armory to recognize Spc. Darius T. Jennings’ ultimate sacrifice.
Jennings was a 22-year-old Soldier who planned to go to college, loved photography and his family. In 2003, as he was about to get on a CH-47 Chinook helicopter that would fly him to the Bagdad airport, then home for a two-week rest and recuperation trip in South Carolina, Jennings demonstrated his good-natured character. Jennings learned that another Soldier was flying home for the birth of his first child, so Jennings gave up his seat on the earlier flight and took the later flight.
Jennings was killed in Iraq when the CH-47 Chinook helicopter he was riding in was shot down Nov. 2, 2003. The selfless service to his country and his fellow Soldiers was Jennings’ greatest contribution. Family, friends, and comrades on social media memorial pages further acknowledge the testament of Jennings’ character, as a heartfelt young man, through the many postings.
The Soldiers with HHC, 218th MEB, listened till the end of the story as told by U.S. Army Col. Jeffrey A. Jones, 218th MEB commander.
“I want you to understand the power of what you represent,” said Jones. “You represent the power of healing.”
Harriet Elaine Johnson, a Gold Star Mother – a mother who has lost a son or daughter in combat in the U.S. Armed Forces, is the founder of the Darius T. Jennings Foundation. The foundation provides four college scholarships for high school students each year and hosts the luncheon event for area veterans and invites the Soldiers of HHC, 218th MEB. The partnership between Johnson and the 218th MEB began two years ago as the National Guard unit conducted command and control operations training while helping the foundation set up for the luncheon.
Johnson thanked the family and friends, local businesses, and veterans present at the event, who ranged from the Vietnam War to Operation Joint Guardian, for their support of the event. With the support of other Gold Star Mothers in the Orangeburg area, the healing process and the remembrance of the fallen continues.
While many tears swelled in the eyes of the audience, the Presentation of the Colors was conducted by the ROTC from South Carolina State University and comments were provided by guest speaker, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. R. Van McCarty, Deputy Adjutant General of South Carolina.
“It’s a very humbling day and a quiet day, but every day is a difficult day for a Gold Star Mother,” said McCarty. “It’s young men like this, that impact your life that makes me know why I wear this uniform.”
Family, friends, veterans and Soldiers of the HHC, 218th MEB spent a few hours together listening to stories and words of encouragement while celebrating the selfless service of Spc. Darius T. Jennings.
“Thank you for making us a part of this,” said Jones. “We walk with you everyday and will never forget what Darius did for us.”