CIRCLEVILLE - A solemn ceremony held Saturday in Forest Cemetery paid respect to a fallen soldier whose grave monument was vandalized last month.
Members of the 1st Iron Horse Buckeye Battalion of the USA Brotherhood of Tankers (USABOT) draped the stone in a black shroud as a way of honoring Gerald R. "Bub" Jenkins while concealing the damage that disrespects his sacrifice, according to Sgt. Major Laymon Wilder, state commander.
The intention, Wilder said, is to black it out until it can be brought back to its glory.
"The family should not have to go through this," Wilder said after the ceremony. "He is a fallen soldier who deserves respect, and we wanted to do anything we can do to help."
In addition to covering the stone, Wilder performed a ceremonial toast to Gerald Jenkins with a bottle and glass used only for that honor. He said it harkened back to an old Cavalry tradition of sharing one last drink with a fellow soldier.
Members of the 1st Buckeye Battalion from across the state attended Saturday's ceremony with a small crowd of family, friends and onlookers at the cemetery.
Roger Jenkins, Gerald's father, said he was overwhelmed by the service and the honor for his son, who was just 19 when he was killed Oct. 20, 2010, by an improvised explosive device while on foot patrol in the Maquan, Zhari district of Afghanistan.
Army Spc. Gerald Jenkins was a combat engineer assigned to the 1st Brigade Special Troop Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division based in Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
As the criminal investigation continues to find the person responsible for desecrating the stone, Jenkins is left searching for a way to cover the cost of replacing it, which is estimated at $15,000.
Jenkins said $9,000 is required up front to begin the process of making a new stone, with the balance due upon delivery.
The original stone cost $14,000 when it was created in 2010.
"I did it before, and I'm going to do it again," Jenkins said. "This time, I just need a little help."
To that end, Roger Jenkins has opened an account in his name at Huntington Bank for people who wish to donate to the cost of the new stone. He also is accepting donations directly at P.O. Box 43, Tarlton, Ohio 43156.
Jenkins said he hopes donors will include their names, because his intent is to have each person's name engraved on the side of the new stone in appreciation for their help.
"I don't care if it's $1," Jenkins said. "If they donate to help make this happen, I want their name on it."
The damage to the stone was discovered and reported to the Circleville Police Department on April 26. Police said someone used an unknown object to take a large chip out of the top of the laser-etched photo of Gerald on the front of the stone and attempted to burn the facial area of the image.
Police are still investigating at least one person of interest in the incident, but no charges have yet been filed.