Harold A. Jenkins
West Point, 1965
Be Thou At Peace
Posted by Rick Sinnreich on September 30, 2020:
When I first laid eyes on Hal on M Day, he was cowering in the corner of our room-to-be to avoid contact with anyone wearing a red sash. "Are they outside?" he asked plaintively. I assured him that I had arrived unmolested, but pointed out that he wouldn't be able to remain concealed forever. "I'm not going back out there one minute before I have to," he replied, and he was as good as his word. I didn't see him again until after the swearing-in ceremony at Trophy Point.
Hal soon reclaimed his normal equanimity. He and I, and Glade Bishop, our third Beast roommate, were fortunate to have been assigned a first-floor room. The downside was that we were readily accessible - no stair climbing required. The upside was that we were graced with a washbasin. Given Hal's aversion to exposure, entirely shared by Glade and me, it ended up serving a very different and less sanitary purpose throughout the next two months of starvation and abuse.
While Hal wasn't directly responsible for the starvation, his unhandiness with cutlery didn't help matters. "You call this a properly sliced pie, Mr. Jenkins? All you plebes sit up!" was a too-common occurrence at our table in Washington Hall.
As a result, when, after several weeks, we were finally allowed a foray to the Boodlers, we planned it with desperate anticipation. Fully expecting to remain on short commons for the remainder of Beast, we decided to pool our meager accounts and stock up on candy bars. But believing that we deserved at least one moment of indulgence, we also bought a single pint of butter-pecan ice cream, Glade's preferred flavor.
Unfortunately, having failed to allow for the Boodlers' lack of spoons, our planning hadn't encompassed purloining spoons from the dining hall. Instead, we were compelled to make do with shoe-horns, each taking turns to scoop out a dollop of ice cream, watched like hawks by the other two. No castaways sharing a survival biscuit could have been more vigilant. I still can hear Hal moaning as he slurped up a shoe-horn of butter pecan.
Eventually - not soon enough - Beast ended, and I had the good fortune to draw Hal as my G2 roommate for the next two years. Absent his unfailing good humor and running ability, the first of those years would have been much less endurable. As the saying goes, Hal was built for speed. Lean and gangly, he ran like a nervous insect, but his talent earned us more consideration - or at least, less attention - from our upper class tormentors than we otherwise might have enjoyed.
It also saved my bacon when we both were drafted - Hal cheerfully, I very reluctantly - for G2's intramural track team. Largely on the strength of Hal's talent, we managed to reach the championships. In the concluding relay, Hal of course was assigned to the dash. I was relegated to the final 880, which I proceeded to lose despite the significant lead furnished by my relay predecessor. That forced us into a runoff, which Hal won in a walk, so to speak. That afternoon we stapled a jockstrap to our door, a display on my part utterly unearned, but wholly deserved by Hal. Somewhere I still have the brigade championship jacket patch that he won for us both on that banner day.
Sadly, '65 was among the first classes to be forced to change companies after our yearling year, and I was shuffled off to A2. The organizational change didn't bother me - no one was likely to complain about remaining in the 2nd Regiment - but losing Hal as a roommate did, and while we stayed in touch until graduation and afterward - Carol and I had the pleasure of hosting Hal and his family to dinner several years later - I never had the opportunity to serve with him again.
Notwithstanding, I mourn his passing as a loss to the class and to his many admirers, and for me, the departure to Valhalla of a cherished friend and comrade.
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