Four years ago, with her husband embroiled in the first wave of the war in Iraq, Jen Dunckley paid tribute to him at a rally in Feasterville, Bucks County, clutching his portrait in a steady rain.
This week, when Allen James Dunckley Jr. became the war's latest casualty, his wife again honored him, posting the fallen Army sergeant's words and photos online.
"I just want people to know that he's a hero, and what kind of man he was," the 22-year-old widow said yesterday.
Sgt. Dunckley, 25, was killed Monday in Salman Pak, Iraq, when his unit was hit with an improvised explosive device and small-arms fire, the Department of Defense said. The Yardley resident, who went by his middle name, was on his second tour of duty in Iraq. He had served there with the Marines in 2003.
He was the third Bucks County man in three weeks to die in the war.
Dunckley had been inspired to serve by the Sept. 11 attacks, his family said. He hoped to become a youth minister upon his return.
"His ultimate goal in life was to show his family and his country that he loved them, and that he would do anything for them," Jen Dunckley said.
His words, posthumously placed on her MySpace site, speak of war and love in tandem.
"Most people view love as a word or emotion. I view love as an act or commitment," he wrote. "My act of love is my service in the military, protecting and preserving all the things I believe in most, so that my children, family, and friends can enjoy true freedom."
The middle of three children, Dunckley grew up in Hamilton Square and Ewing, N.J., home-schooled by his father, Allen Sr., a pastor, and his mother, Mae, a Christian school principal.
Growing up, Dunckley never showed much interest in the military, his father said. That changed on Sept. 11, 2001.
After a semester at Pensacola (Fla.) Christian College, Dunckley returned home to reassess his goals, his father said. He wound up enlisting in the Marines.
"He wanted to do nothing but excel, and would not accept failure," Allen Dunckley Sr. said. "He would pursue until he accomplished."
"He was a very quiet, staid, controlled personality. He knew how to be hard when it was necessary, and how to be tender and compliant when it also was needed. And he was loved by his men for that reason."
He and his wife were sitting down to dinner with another pastor when two officers came to the door of their Glassboro home on Monday. He said he knows nothing of what happened to his son beyond the Army's official release.
James Dunckley had chosen the Army for his second tour because it offered a wider variety of opportunities, his wife said, including Special Forces training. He ultimately bowed out of Green Berets training, she said, because he wanted to return home sooner to her and their children, Joshua, 3, and Hannah, 2.
When Jen Dunckley told the children that their father was gone, "Joshua said, 'Daddy is so cool; I'm proud of Daddy,' " she said.
Hannah, however, was inconsolable.
"She just kept asking, 'Why, why, why?' " her mother said. "This whole week, my daughter has been crying, and she is never like that.
"They understand that Daddy is not coming home this time."