Statistics of war sometimes are heard and not really heard. We note them, but let them pass us by, regretting but not getting caught up in the mourning and loss. And then the toll hits close to home, as in the case of young, promising nineteen year old Lance Corporal Christopher Jenkins Dyer.
His grandmother, Joyce Jenkins Dyer of Gainesville, called me Friday, August 5 to give me the devastating news. Chris, as he was known, was the only grandson of my first cousin, Odell B. Dyer and the lad’s grandmother, Joyce (from whom Christopher received his middle name, Jenkins to honor family ties). They have three granddaughters, but it was through Chris they hoped to perpetuate the Dyer surname. I knew by the sound of Joyce’s voice that she was heavy with grief and the news was not good. And then she confirmed to me that Chris was, indeed, one of the 14 Marines I had read about in Thursday’s newspaper account and in a news report heard over television.
What can I say to a grieving grandmother and grandfather, and to their son, Dr. John Dyer of Cincinnati, Ohio, as they deal with intense grief? His grandfather, Odell, was almost killed during World War II, the only survivor of a plane shot down at Mundy Bay in 1945. I’m sure Christopher’s service in Iraq had brought many memories of his own “greatest generation” war experiences home to Odell Dyer.
At this time, they are still awaiting the arrival of Christopher Jenkins Dyer’s body from Iraq. A memorial service will be held in Evendale, a suburb of Cincinnati, where Christopher lived with his father, Dr. John Dyer, a chemist at Proctor Gamble Company, and sisters, twins Sarah and Laura, two years younger than Christopher. Following the memorial service, the body will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery, our nation’s way of memoralizing fallen heroes.
Christopher Dyer had such potential. A top honors graduate from Princeton High School in Cincinnati, he was to enter Ohio State University in Columbus in January 2006 in the honors program. He wanted to be an aviator and an officer in the Marines. He was on his way to his ambition when he was called into active duty from the Lima Company and assigned to Iraqi duty. In e-mails home he anticipated getting back to the states in September or October, beginning flying lessons, and “getting on with learning” as he resumed his studies at Ohio State. With athletic, academic and artistic talents, he had been a football and swimming/diving star at Princeton High School, and played the viola in the school orchestra. “He wanted to study the hardest subjects,” his father, Dr. John C. Dyer, told news reporters at the “Cincinnati Enquirer.” Christopher studied five years of German, became fluent in the language, and was in advanced physics classes for three years. His academic subjects were in preparation for the honors program at Ohio State.
Christopher’s aunt, Jane Dyer Fagden of Atlanta, went immediately to Cincinnati to be with her brother during this time of great grief. “We were planning a homecoming party for Chris,” she said. “We never imagined it would be this.”
Christopher’s sisters, twins, Laura and Sarah, who turned 17 on July 5, were at a girls’ camp in Nashville when the tragic news came about their brother’s death in Iraq. Their mother, Kathryn Searles Dyer of Raleigh, N.C., went to Nashville to take the girls to Cincinnati. “They were handling their grief like troopers,” the camp officials told their father. Later, on reflection, Sarah expressed a desire she had been harboring for some time, and that is to join the Marine Corps like her brother did. The senior at Princeton High School was already in the process of applying to the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Military Academy. She wrote a poem in honor of her brother which was featured in the Sunday, August 7 issue of “The Cincinnati Enquirer.”
“Semper Fidelis,” Always Faithful Dear, dear Brother, You have gone home, To your Father, your Savior, Your Kingdom is come. Dear, dear Brother, You fought bravely as a knight, You are a Devil Dog With the fiercest bite. Dear, dear Brother, We miss you so, Your father, mother, sisters, All your friends, and Joe. Dear, dear Brother, We will see you again, After triumphs, and troubles, And all of our pain. Dear, dear Brother, Stay tough on high. We will remember you: “Semper Fi.” —Sarah Dyer
An amazing quality of Dr. John Dyer and his family is how they have reached out in their grief to the other families who have suffered loss. He gave an interview to television reporters that was aired nationwide. In it he sought to encourage others whose children had died in service. And in a letter to the editor of “The Cincinnati Enquirer” of August 9, 2005, while still awaiting the return of his son’s body, Dr. Dyer wrote;
“The last words I spoke to Chris were ‘I love you, son.’ Our loved ones can be taken from us for any reason, at any time. I am fortunate, indeed, to have those as my last words. Hug someone, help someone, give someone something. Let your last words be “I love you” and mean it. If you take some part of these words to heart, that will carry the memory of my son and the other Marines, into good works, something good that would not have happened except for this tragedy. Do one thing for him, and them, that you would not have done, and be blessed for it. God bless you all. God bless the Marine Corps, and God bless the United States of America.” John C. Dyer, Evendale (in the August 9, 2005 Cincinnati Enquirer.)
Dr. John Dyer invites anyone who wishes to make a gift in memory of Christopher Jenkins Dyer to send it to the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, 825 College Blvd., Suite 102, PO Box 609, Oceanside, CA 92057. This will be a means of helping the living.
War hits home and brings great grief. But through faith and determination, family members recall the good times and move forward.
c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Aug. 11, 2005 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.