WILTON – A 20-year-old Army paratrooper and Saratoga Springs High School graduate was killed in a parachute training accident on Monday, the U.S. Army announced.
Spc. Abigail Jenks of Gansevoort was conducting a static-line jump from a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter when she suffered a fatal injury, according to an announcement from Fort Bragg in North Carolina. The incident remains under investigation by the Army. Jenks was a member of the famed 82nd Airborne Division, having decided to enlist even before graduating from high school in 2018.
“She was very beautiful, very positive, her Facebook page always said to think positive,” said great-aunt Diana Klementowski of Greenfield Center, with whom she was close. “I never saw her do a bad thing. Like when she was 16 she decided she was going to rescue animals and got a batch of kittens from somewhere and found homes for them. I never heard a bad word about her.”
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ordered that flags at state government buildings be flown at half-staff from Thursday through Jenks’ interment. “On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest sympathy to Spc. Abigail Jenks’ family and loved ones,” Cuomo said. “We are devastated by her loss and join her fellow soldiers, family and friends in honoring her service to our country.”
Klemtowski said Jenks loved being in the military service, and loved jumping.
“It is a terrible loss for the world,” she said, sobbing at times during a phone interview. “She wanted to be a hero, she didn’t care if they sent her to Afghanistan. She wasn’t a bit afraid.”
Jenks is also well-remembered at the high school. “Abigail was always happy, goal oriented, and well-liked by students and staff,” said Geoff Loiacono, a counselor at the high school. “We are fortunate to have had her here at Saratoga Springs High School and we are proud of her service to our country. Our sincere condolences go out to family and friends.”
Jenks was part of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. The Army said she was a fire support specialist serving as a forward observer with the brigade’s Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment.
“Spc. Jenks was a dedicated paratrooper, gifted forward observer, loyal friend, and talented artist who consistently made a tremendous impact on all around her,” Lt. Col. Christopher Walsh, commander of the 1st Battalion, said in a release. “She will be dearly missed. We are ensuring every resource is available to her family and peers to help them during this difficult time.”
Jenks enlisted in the Army in October 2018 and was assigned to Fort Bragg as a paratrooper in June 2019. The release also described her as a three-time volunteer and indicated she completed advanced individual training at Fort Sill, Okla., and the Basic Airborne Course at Fort Benning, Ga.
“Spc. Abigail Jenks was a creative, hardworking, and confident Paratrooper. Her love for art, animals, and her friends reverberated wherever she worked,” Capt. Brian Norman, Jenks’ battery commander, said in the release. “Her compassion for fellow paratroopers will be truly missed.”
Jenks already has several medals, and the Army said she would be posthoumously awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.
She is survived by her parents, an older brother David who is in the Air Force in Missouri and came home Wednesday, and younger siblings who are 15- and 13- years old. “They’re devastated. They were very close. We all are,” Klementowski said.
“She was a positive, happy person. She’s always seeing the good side of things. She had an impact on so many people in her life,” her mother, Mary Jenks, told CBS 6 News. “I know most parents would say these things about their kids but she was really awesome. She brought everyone together and she still is bringing people together, even today.”
The Army has not yet released Jenks’ body to the family, so final arrangements remain incomplete.