In the Trenches
Volume 144, Number 2, March/April 2010, Pages 4–5
By Lena Anthony
Photographs Courtesy of Jennifer Minus
The day after returning from a training mission last November, Army Lieutenant Colonel Jennifer Minus was scheduled to be immunized for her upcoming deployment to Iraq. But after being away from her post as the chief of plans and operations for the III Armored Corps G-1 at Fort Hood for 10 days, she was still catching up, so she postponed her appointment. That meant Lt. Col. Minus was not at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center on November 5, 2009, when an Army major opened fire, killing 13 and wounding 30 others.
One soldier from her unit was there, and he sent a text message to let everyone know he was OK but couldn’t leave the building. In fact, the entire base—one of the largest military bases in the world—was locked down for several hours after the attack. “There were thousands of cars at the gate waiting to get out, once it was safe,” she recalls.
Lt. Col. Minus was not among the people lined up to leave that night, however. Casualty support was one of the tasks she was trained to do, and her superiors needed her help in the emergency operations center.
“I got there about 2:30 p.m., and that began my all-nighter,” she says. “They relieved me about 8:30 the next morning.”
For the next week and a half, Lt. Col. Minus worked almost 18 hours a day, helping process requests for information from the commander and ensure that the families of the deceased and wounded were supported, from notification until after the memorial ceremony.
“I’ve been involved in different aspects of casualty operations for 16 years, and of course, it is always difficult,” she says, “but November 10, the day of the memorial ceremony, was overwhelming.”
On that day, Lt. Col. Minus was the escort for the families of the deceased. “I ensured they were welcomed, thanked for coming, made comfortable and had everything they needed while they spoke with senior military officials and President Obama and the first lady,” she says. “The time and attention that the first lady and president took with each family member was so impressive. A lot of grieving went on in those couple hours, and it meant so much for the families.”
Lt. Col. Minus at her award and farewell ceremony
from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Lt. Col. Minus has always risen to a challenge. When she was 16, she saw a newspaper article that ranked the United States Military Academy at West Point as the hardest school to get into. She couldn’t wait to apply. “By the time I got in, I had fallen in love with the ideals and campus of West Point,” she says.
After graduating in 1993 with a degree in American history, Lt. Col. Minus joined the Adjutant General’s Corps, which handles human resources for the Army. She was stationed in Germany for three years, where she was in charge of routing the mail sent to soldiers deployed overseas. In Germany, she met and married her husband, Joe, but she was deployed to Bosnia soon after the wedding. “We didn’t get to see each other very much that first year of marriage,” she says.
Several years later, she found herself back at West Point, teaching American history to cadets and then coordinating personnel assignments for the academy. One of the fondest memories of her Army career is West Point graduation day—both her own and the ones she witnessed while working behind the scenes. “To see these young cadets who are knowingly going into an Army at war and to know that they’re willing to sacrifice everything for their country is an amazing thing to watch,” she says.
In July 2009, Lt. Col. Minus left West Point and arrived at Fort Hood for her latest assignment—deployment to Baghdad, where she’ll oversee human resources operations and planning for the U.S. Forces Iraq J-1.
Saying good-bye to her children Joseph, 11, and Juliana, 8, isn’t easy, she says, but almost daily phone calls and frequent care packages will make the distance between them feel shorter. Lt. Col. Minus also purchased dolls for each of them from HugaHero.com. “The doll has a picture of me on a big pillow,” she says. “They can hug them or sleep with them whenever they miss me.”
When she returns from her deployment next spring, Lt. Col. Minus, who currently serves as Regent of the Quassaick Chapter, Newburgh, N.Y., already has a long to-do list that includes all of the things she enjoys doing with her family—hiking, visiting historical sites and keeping her children involved in the Children of the American Revolution (C.A.R.).
“They came with me to DAR Continental Congress last year,” says Lt. Col. Minus, who for many years has served as a page at New York’s state conferences and Continental Congress. “They got to see the C.A.R. room and displays, which they thought were really neat.”