Dana Canedy was raised as an Army brat and certainly had no interest in living her adult life subject to the uncertainties and moves that all military families must endure. She was a journalist deeply involved in her career at The New York Times when she first met Charles during a visit with her parents in Kentucky.
Charles was still healing from a divorce, and Dana had recently ended a relationship. Neither of them was ready to begin dating again. But many phone calls took place, and soon the soldier was visiting the writer in the big city. Their long-distance relationship had some rough patches, but they were together whenever their schedules allowed. A few years passed, and their relationship deepened and strengthened. They planned to marry after Charles completed his tour of duty in Iraq. Dana became pregnant, and the baby was due in March 2006.
Dana gave Charles a journal of sorts --- not a blank book --- but one with a question at the top of each page to prompt the prospective father to write to his unborn child. Charles busied himself filling up its pages, often substituting his own questions so that he could explain certain things to Jordan. He wanted Jordan to know him. Possibly he felt he might not live to see his son. Surely that thought entered Dana’s mind as well.
Charles carried an ultrasound image of the unborn baby with him in Iraq. Though he promised to return to New York for Jordan’s birth, when the time neared he stayed with his company of young, combat-inexperienced soldiers. He told Dana they really needed him and would not leave. Dana also needed Charles, but she soldiered on in her own way and gave birth to a beautiful, healthy son without Charles at her side.
A few months later, Charles did manage to get a brief leave to see Jordan and instantly fell in love with his son. That precious time flew by as the new family bonded. Then Charles returned to Iraq with only six weeks remaining until his tour would be up. The couple had made plans --- for a wedding, for Jordan’s first Christmas --- that should have lasted a lifetime. But those were shattered to bits when Charles was killed by a roadside bomb during a mission for which he volunteered. Once again, Charles, the conscientious soldier, had placed duty above family.
Dana’s grief seemed bottomless. What she feared most had actually happened, and now she was left to raise Jordan alone. The Army gave her a sanitized, official version of what happened --- that Charles had died instantly. But Dana was skeptical, and the reporter in her would not rest until she had some plausible answers. She spent a great deal of time interviewing soldiers who had served with Charles, asking questions to which she dreaded hearing the answers. But she needed to know. Finally she pieced the information together to reach an answer she could accept and understand.
A JOURNAL FOR JORDAN gives a human face and voice to those impersonal-sounding statistics --- war casualties --- that the news anchors report on an all too-frequent basis. The statistic was a human being --- someone’s much-loved son or daughter, husband or wife, father or mother. This book reminds the reader of the many people whose lives are forever changed by the loss of one single soldier. Though Jordan will grow up with the legacy of his father's written words along with the love and devotion of his mother, Dana, he is a victim of the Iraq War as are Dana, the sergeant's parents, his daughter and countless other people who knew and loved him.
Reviewed by Carole Turner on January 22, 2011