- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 26, 2003

A 25-year-old paratrooper severely injured when ordnance being returned to U.S. troops by a young Iraqi girl exploded, died Thursday.
Sgt. Troy Jenkins of Twentynine Palms, Calif., who was married and the father of two preschoolers, was credited with pushing other soldiers out of the way of the April 19 blast in Baghdad and with shielding the Iraqi girl.
"My boss says they will be putting him in for the Soldier's Medal, the Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart," said Master Sgt. Kelly Tyler, a Fort Campbell, Ky., spokeswoman. Sgt. Jenkins was based there as a member of the Army's 101st Airborne Division.
Sgt. Jenkins lost a leg and two fingers in the explosion, and his second leg was later amputated because shrapnel wounds were causing gangrene.
As of late yesterday afternoon, the Department of Defense had not officially confirmed Sgt. Jenkins' death. But family members revealed it earlier, and the Mobile (Ala.) Register newspaper carried an online report about his death yesterday.
"Troy had planned to get out of the military … before his luck ran out. He wanted to become a state trooper," his father, Jack Jenkins of Turkey Creek, La., said in a telephone interview yesterday.
As of yesterday, there remained some uncertainty about how the explosion occurred and the type of munition that was involved.
Mr. Jenkins said he was told by the military that it was a grenade. Sgt. Tyler said she understood it was a "cluster bomb, which more than likely belonged to the United States."
At a briefing yesterday, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Iraqi girl "was trying to return … some sort of munition" to American troops, "and it went off."
"It wasn't a cluster bomb," he told reporters.
At a press briefing Monday, Gen. Myers said the girl had actually intended to harm U.S. soldiers with the munition. But he backtracked from that assertion yesterday, saying she was simply trying to return the ordnance.
Lt. Cmdr. Charles Owens of the U.S. Central Command in Qatar said the incident appeared to be accidental. "You have munitions that have not exploded not necessarily coalition munitions" lying around, he said in a telephone interview.
"There have been three or four incidents reported about [an unexploded munition] being found or exploding," he said.
Published reports have said that residents of the Daura neighborhood in southeastern Baghdad have been trying to negotiate their way through what appear to be pieces of U.S. cluster bombs, scattered through the area, including some found hanging in trees.
In yesterday's briefing, Gen. Myers said coalition forces dropped nearly 1,500 cluster bombs during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He said an initial review indicates "only 26 of those approximately 1,500 hit targets within 1,500 feet of civilian neighborhoods."
The official U.S. Central Command press release about the explosion that wounded Sgt. Jenkins, dated April 19, said four soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division were injured "when unexploded ordnance detonated after a local child attempted to turn it over to the soldiers."
The release said the ordnance "detonated when one of the soldiers attempted to remove it from the child's hand." It went on to say the child was taken away by a local man at the scene.
Sgt. Jenkins' father said he was told the girl had found the grenade and "threw it at my son's feet" as she approached the four soldiers, who were walking. "She probably didn't know what it was," he said, adding: "I was told Troy jumped on it. He always worried more about other people than himself."
Sgt. Tyler said she heard the Iraqi girl "dropped the munition" and that Sgt. Jenkins "threw himself on the bomb."
Connie Gibson, of Repton, Ala., the dead soldier's mother, told the Mobile Register she understands the child was playing with the ordnance and tossed it at the soldiers. Mrs. Gibson said her son recognized the danger and threw himself on the explosive as it detonated, saving the lives of the other soldiers and child.
Sgt. Tyler said she asked Maj. Hugh Cate III in the Persian Gulf yesterday if he could confirm reports that Sgt. Jenkins threw himself on the bomb. He could not, she said.
"Maj. Cate sent me an e-mail that said Sgt. Jenkins pushed people out of the way and shielded other soldiers to keep them from harm." she said. Also in that e-mail, Maj. Cate cited the medals Sgt. Jenkins is likely to receive posthumously.
Fran Jenkins, the sergeant's stepmother, said she believes he died Thursday as he was being flown from Kuwait to a military hospital in Germany.
"Freedom comes at a high price," said Mr. Jenkins, who noted that his son also served in Afghanistan.

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