Marine Gunnery Sgt. Phillip Jordan of Enfield, a Texas native based at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. He died March 23, 2003 in a battle in Nasiriyah, Iraq. He was 42 years old.
Everything Amanda Jordan says about her husband is in the present tense.
She speaks in the present, she said, because she's used to everyday life with her husband, Gunnery Sgt. Phillip A. Jordan, away on deployment with the U.S. Marines. So since the moment that two soldiers and a chaplain came to her office Monday to tell her that her husband had been killed in combat in Iraq on Sunday, the reality has yet to set in.
``This is not happening to me,'' she said, composed but tired at her kitchen table Tuesday. ``Today's not different; it's not that he was here every day and now he's not. We're so used to him not being here.'' She paused. ``But you know he's coming back.''
Phillip Jordan, 42, a Texas native, was killed along with eight other Marines in a firefight near the Iraqi city of An Nasiriyah. Jordan, based at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, and was ambushed when Iraqi soldiers feigned surrender before opening fire, Amanda Jordan said.
He was the first Connecticut man killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom, the second to have died in combat since Sept. 11 -- Tech. Sgt. John A. Chapman of Windsor Locks was killed in Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan in March 2002.
The couple met when Amanda Jordan, a Connecticut native born in Bridgeport, was working as a paralegal in California and Phillip Jordan was stationed at Camp Pendleton, she said. Naturally, she knew he was a Marine when they married in 1994. It was a choice, she said. ``We were going to have a normal family when he's here, and when he's not, he's doing his job,'' Amanda Jordan said.
Several tours later -- after service in Operation Desert Storm, after Kosovo, after three years based at Camp Lejeune and another three as a drill sergeant on Parris Island -- Phillip Jordan got his orders last fall to be based again at Camp Lejeune. Knowing that he would soon be deployed, the couple decided to make Enfield their home to be closer to family, Amanda Jordan said.
Here, seated at the kitchen table of their Enfield condominium, Amanda Jordan spoke of a man who would go out of his way for anyone.
If she commented during an ice cream commercial that the ice cream looked good, he was out of the door ``in two seconds flat,'' she said. He fixed flat tires for people he didn't know. Even after nine years, every Sunday that he was home he fixed a homemade breakfast with bacon, eggs, biscuits, freshly squeezed orange juice and flowers. He even did laundry.
``He ruined it, but he did it,'' she said.
And he was perpetually optimistic, she said. Even when it came to war. So, sure, he had his moments of black humor when he joked about how she should collect his life insurance policy -- one lump sum is better than installments with interest, he told her -- but he was optimistic. Confident. Convinced that he was good at what he did.
But he wasn't into politics. When one friend asked his thoughts on the war, he responded by avoiding politics altogether, Amanda Jordan said. ``He just smiled, looked at her, and said, `This is what I do. That's my job.'''
He told his mother-in-law, Gretchen Marcroft, ``I don't want to go back to the desert, but I have to go back to do it right this time,'' she said.
But even though he was often gone, he would write. Letters came, and more probably will come even after his death, in two parts: The first begins, ``Dear Amanda,'' and the second begins, ``Dear Tyler.'' Because he wanted Tyler to have a letter of his own, Amanda Jordan said.
Tyler adores his father and wants to be a Marine himself, she said. ``Tyler is very proud of his dad for being a Marine and Phil is the same way with Tyler,'' she said.
When he left the United States on Jan. 4, Amanda Jordan, 34, had a bad feeling. And she's not one of those people with ESP or gut feelings, she said. But on Saturday, she was ill. On Sunday, she was worse. And on Monday, when the person on the phone at Camp Lejeune would neither confirm nor deny her husband's status, she knew. ``Somewhere, he's dead,'' she said, in a hushed voice so that her son wouldn't hear.
Until Monday, her house was mainly the domain of her son and her two cats. ``Now, every person I know has been here,'' she said, appreciative of the support she has received. ``There's pizza, soda, candy, coffee. I don't even drink coffee.''
Friends and family surround her, and they describe Phillip Jordan as his wife does: a Marine's Marine and a family man.
Even though others called Phillip Jordan ``Gump,'' Jay Paretzsky, Amanda Jordan's stepfather, spoke of him as Phil. ``If you're not close to it, it's difficult to appreciate what a military person is,'' Paretzsky said. But his way of describing Jordan was simple: trained to kill but soft to the soul.
The calls from journalists throughout the country began early Tuesday afternoon and hadn't stopped by evening. But Amanda Jordan was gracious and willing to talk to reporters, in between calls from family, friends and a network of wives at Lejeune. Because any exposure her husband can get, he deserves, she said.
Phillip Jordan's body will soon be flown to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Amanda Jordan said. Burial arrangements have yet to be made.