Days after learning Capt. Jonathan Wynkoop had died in a training accident, his family members had a request — they wanted to meet the soldiers involved.
So, on an April Monday at Fort Bliss, Texas, Rachel Wynkoop found herself in a room at her husband’s brigade headquarters, speaking with the driver of the MATV that rolled over the father of three while he slept on a cot next to his vehicle in the early morning hours of March 31.
Rachel Wynkoop wasn’t there to press for answers, to express rage, to impart or release any of the suffering she’d undergone in the six days since her husband’s death.
Instead, the officer’s widow had a simple goal.
“My mission was to help him,” Wynkoop said of the driver, in one of a series of emails to Army Times. “He offered apologies, and I offered forgiveness, and told him that the kids and I would be OK. I also ensured that even though he faces a difficult road ahead, that he would take care of himself in the best manner possible.”
The act of kindness, Wynkoop said, stemmed from her husband’s long-held desire to help his fellow soldiers, one that inspired his application to the Army’s Master of Social Work program. He expected to find out whether he’d been accepted in mid-April.
Instead, he was the victim of a mishap that his widow described as “unfortunate and largely preventable,” words that echo the findings of the Army’s 15-6 investigation into the incident. For a family that had been through the uncertainty of deployment — settling for a phone call once or twice a month — tragedy instead struck at home, during an exercise Capt. Wynkoop wasn’t even sure he’d be required to attend, less than two days after returning from a wedding.
“I did not comprehend why two uniformed soldiers were approaching my door that morning, because I had just said goodbye to my husband the afternoon prior so that he could return to the field,” Rachel Wynkoop said. “I was in such a great state of shock and disbelief that I had the chaplain call my sister and tell her the news so that I could hear it from someone close to me and begin to process it.”
A well-written romance
She calls it “truly love at first sight,” but Rachel Wynkoop and her husband had a bit of a head start.
The future Army officer was undergoing entry-level Air Force training in early 2007. His mother thought he could use a pen-pal, so she asked her co-worker at the Wal-Mart in Toledo, Ohio. The future Rachel Wynkoop agreed.
The two traded letters through the summer. They exchanged phone numbers and photos around August. Rachel recalled sending her first text to Jonathan on Aug. 15, to wish him a happy birthday.
Texts became phone calls that stretched long into the evening. By the time they met in person in October, they’d already agreed to date. About a year later, they were married.
Read more: armytimes.com