A Soldier's Letters To His Son

In October 2006, First Sergeant Charles King was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq. He left behind a poignant, heartfelt journal for his infant son, filled with all the lessons he would never be able to teach him. Read an excerpt from A Journal for Jordan.

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Excerpted from A Journal for Jordan by Dana Canedy, Pulitzer Prize-winner and senior editor for the New York Times Copyright © 2008 by Dana Canedy. Excerpted by permission of Crown, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Dear Jordan,

If you are reading this book, it means that we got through the sorrowful years, somehow, and that you are old enough to understand all that I am about to tell you.

You are just ten months old now, but I am writing this for the young man you will be. By then, you will know that your father was a highly decorated soldier who was killed in combat in October 2006, 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 hundred pages 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 be and what it leaves unsaid about your father and our abiding love.

Before he kissed my swollen stomach and left for the war in December 2005, your father, U.S. Army First Sergeant Charles Monroe King, had been preparing for the promise of your new life and for the possible end of his own. Even before he boarded that plane headed for danger, I worried that he would be killed. So I gave him a journal. I hoped he would write a few messages, perhaps some words of encouragement to you, though you were not yet born, in case he died before you knew each other.

We did a lot to prepare for the possibility that your father would miss out on your life, including finding out if you were a boy or a girl before he left; he was thrilled to have an image of you in his mind and kept your sonogram pictures in a pocket in his uniform the whole time he was in Iraq.

And then there was the journal. Writing it would be a way for your dad to help guide you through life if he did not make it home to us. He wanted you to know to pick up the check on a date, to take 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 deal with disappointment, to understand the difference between love and 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 dangerous and often deadly missions, your dad returned hungry and exhausted to the relative calm of his room and wrote to you before he slept. His grammar was not perfect and his handwriting at times suggested that he was tired or rushed. But he put so much thought into the beautiful messages he wrote, things like: