Marine wants families to see true stories of loved ones lost in war
Arlington Heights resident and retired Marine Charles Jones tried, but he couldn't find the right words for a letter he long wanted to send to the son of a colleague who was killed while serving in Afghanistan in 2013.
But Jones, a shipping employee at defense contractor Northrop Grumman in Rolling Meadows, wanted to do something to let young Calvin Davis know how much his father meant to him.
That led him to found an initiative to have a professionally produced video, with memories from colleagues of a service member killed in action, presented to a surviving family annually.
Known as the Dear Calvin Project for the incomplete letter to the boy, the broadcast-quality, documentary-style video on Marine Staff Sgt. Jonathan Davis debuted in an emotion-filled dining room Saturday at Old Orchard Country Club in Mount Prospect.
Calvin, now 9, and his mother, Helena Davis, watched the first of what Jones hopes will be many productions.
Davis said she appreciated how the 25-minute video with comments -- some unflattering -- from eight Marines painted a fair picture of her husband. She was it was important for Calvin to see a "raw, true story" about his father, an Arizona native who died in Afghanistan's Helmand province five years ago.
"It was a realistic perspective of somebody because Jon was only human and he was flawed, and he was wild and he was fun," Davis said. "And he was a man of his word. He really, truly was. If he said something, it was good, it was going to happen. And that's what Calvin needs to understand. His dad wasn't perfect. And that's OK."
Calvin did not know about the video until it was shown after a fundraising golf outing at Old Orchard to benefit the nonprofit initiative named for him.
He and his mom held each other for most of the showing.
Jones said he learned of Davis' death when he took a telephone call at a Blackhawks game in February 2013.
Davis' widow later asked Jones and other Marines to write letters to Calvin so he'd have memories of his father.
It hit Jones on the anniversary of Davis' death in 2017 that he had yet to sent the letter to Calvin.
He then came up with the idea that interested a friend who's a colorist in Atlanta and rallied video production professionals to donate their time for the Dear Calvin Project.
Jones paid to have seven Marines go to Atlanta to join him for the interviews early this year.
He also paid for Calvin and his mother to travel from California to Mount Prospect for the showing.
"The most important thing, aside from getting this job done, is making sure the story is accurate and true," he said.
Northrop Grumman business development manager John Mikols of Arlington Heights, who serves in the Navy Reserve, said Jones sought support about two months ago for the Dear Calvin Project from the company's VERITAS resource group, which stands for veterans, employees and reservists inspired to act and serve.
"This is something incredibly unique, powerful and necessary," said Mikols, co-chair of VERITAS. "I was also surprised. I don't think anyone's done this yet. So, we're trying to throw the whole weight of our organization at Northrop Grumman behind him."
Mikols said it's hoped a grant can be secured to provide additional funding for the Dear Calvin Project.
Jones said he hopes to have a video produced for a Northwest suburban family next year.