Army 1st Sgt. Charles Monroe King is memorialized in "A Journal for Jordan," a movie that tells the story of his relationship with journalist Dana Canedy and the journal he left behind for their son Jordan.
Denzel Washington steps behind the camera to direct Michael B. Jordan as King and Chanté Adams as Canedy. The movie opens in theaters on Dec. 25, 2021.
King was killed by a roadside bomb when deployed to Iraq in 2006. Although he had been deployed when his son was born, he was able to return on leave and spend time with Jordan and Dana before his death.
Canedy published a bestselling memoir in 2008 called "A Journal for Jordan: A Story of Love and Honor," and the movie is inspired by her book and the journal entries that King wrote for Jordan.
"A Journal for Jordan" is a movie for everyone who asks why Hollywood doesn't make movies like they used to. It's got patriotism, romance, personal responsibility and characters who are trying to make a difference in the world.
Canedy was a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The New York Times when she was with King, and she's gone on to a successful career in books. She's now the senior vice president and publisher at Simon & Schuster.
She took time before the movie's release to talk about the experience of making the film and her family's now-close relationships with Denzel Washington and Michael B. Jordan.
Canedy grew up in a military family, and her parents' marriage is a big part of the movie. She thinks "A Journal for Jordan" will remind Americans just how big a sacrifice our military families make.
"Even when you grow up in and around military bases like I did, it can be hard to remember the overwhelming day-to-day sacrifice that the soldier and their family makes, because a soldier doesn't serve alone," she noted. "There are families involved, families that, when the soldier is off in a combat zone, have to keep the cars tuned up, the homework checked and the bills paid. All the while, they're wondering if that next phone call or that next knock at the door is going to be the horrible news that their loved one has paid the ultimate sacrifice.
"I'm just hoping that our book and our movie give folks an extra dose of appreciation for the people in our country who are willing to voluntarily serve in our military to make sure that we can live the lives we all want to live. We owe them our gratitude."
Canedy had no hesitation about making a movie because she wanted to share King's life with the world. "I'm really grateful that the story is being told and that it's about my Charles," she said. "I want people to know about this patriot, who had the fortitude to write 200 pages to his unborn son in a journal from the desert in Iraq. It's about everything from the power of prayer to how to treat women to his favorite Bible verses and so much more. I'm grateful for that."
She says her son Jordan has kept his head as two of the most famous stars in the world made a movie about his family. "Jordan is very proud of both of his parents. He really is an old soul like his father. Up until a couple weeks ago, he hadn't told his teachers at school or his friends about the movie. Or that he knew Michael B. Jordan, or that Denzel Washington was his Uncle Day, as he calls them. I think Jordan has [his] head on straight; this is his life. It's not just a movie."
Washington has made a very straight-ahead kind of movie. He's not trying to take King and Canedy's story as a platform to show off any elaborate cinematic stylings. There's a lot of belief in the power of the relationship between these two people and how they affect those around them.
Canedy has high hopes that audiences will hear the story she's been trying to tell. "We're hoping that what people take away from it is exactly what they need, because there are so many different messages for folks, depending on where they are in their lives. The one thing I would like people to know is that, while there are hard parts of this movie, it's laugh-out-loud funny in places. It's a story of inspiration and resilience. I hope we'll see it proudly as Americans, because it is about American patriotism. I think all of that means that it's the perfect movie to see over the holidays with your family members. Go see it with your family and then come out of the theater and hug them tighter."
She's grateful for the passion that Washington brought to the production. "Denzel brought his faith to this movie and made it very personal," she said. "He will be an important part of my life and Jordan's life for the rest of our lives. He made it known to everyone on set that this movie was special to him. He said it was the most important movie he'd ever made in his entire career. The cast and crew took that seriously. They did their homework, they were expected to give their best, but they voluntarily did that. I'll always be grateful to Denzel. It's because of him that you see an incredibly powerful movie."
"A Journal for Jordan" includes the discussions that Canedy and King had about when to get married. They chose not to rush a wedding during King's brief visit home after Jordan's birth, hoping for an elaborate ceremony once he returned from Iraq. Unfortunately, that wedding never happened.
What's not in the movie is a full examination of what their marital status meant when it came to Dana's rights once Charles died and how that status could've had a negative impact on Jordan. The rules in play here are carryovers from a different era and don't accurately reflect all of the committed relationships that our active-duty personnel may have today.
Fortunately, things turned out well for Canedy and Jordan. "I have a big career," she said. "So Charles' benefits were not my focus. We sat down and went through everything we would need to go through to make sure Jordan was taken care of. I had a power of attorney to be able to sign for Jordan's military benefits. Charles took care of things like his beneficiaries and all of that. So we were fine there."
"At first, I was not treated well at all by the military after his death. Initially, it was horrible. I was treated very disrespectfully and left in tears and shaking. When I met with the military officials before the funeral, several things happened that really magnified my grief," she said.
"I was sitting in this room with the person who was supposed to be helping us, going through whatever paperwork we needed to go through, and a tear ran down my eyes. I'm just thinking, 'Oh, my God, how did this happen? How did we get to this point?' The man said, 'Alright, you need to calm down.' I wasn't even crying. I just had a tear in my eye. But even if I had been screaming, that would have been my right. I could not believe it."
"When we went to the funeral, someone was supposed to pick me up and take me to the airport. They never came. On the other end, they were supposed to pick me up and take me to the hotel room. They never showed up. So I was left on my own," Canedy added. "Look, I'm a journalist. I've traveled all over the country and different parts of the world. I'm used to taking care of myself, but at that moment, I needed help. I was trying to get, step by step, through this."
Fortunately, someone at the Pentagon has paid attention to Canedy's work since then, and the attitude towards her family has changed. "Since then, I will say that the military has been terrific," Canedy said. "They allowed Jordan to visit the Pentagon. I'm touched by the fact that the military has embraced Jordan, and embraced the movie in the way that they have.
"Jordan was permitted to go onto a military base with Michael B. when he trained for the role of Charles. They gave Jordan a military uniform and made him an honorary drill sergeant. And he was so proud of that. They had a screening of the movie in Washington. They've been very supportive of us and them. I'm grateful that other stuff is all behind us."
Canedy had the resources and education to solve her issues, but she realizes that not all military families are as fortunate as hers and hopes that policies can be updated.
"There are some things that should be changed," she noted. Initially, Charles' name wasn't on Jordan's birth certificate, because he wasn't in the room when he was born. Even though he signed all the paperwork and the paternity information that we needed from Iraq and got it back to us, because we didn't sign on the same day, this particular hospital wouldn't allow his name on the birth certificate.
"Thank God, he got to come home for two weeks and meet our son. We went and got that paperwork taken care of, but imagine if he had died before we'd had a chance to take care of that," Canedy said. "A child of a serviceman or woman serving in combat should not have to endure the possibility that their parent might not be on their birth certificate, because they're away serving our country. Things like that absolutely need to be addressed."
Keep Up With the Best in Military Entertainment
Whether you're looking for news and entertainment, thinking of joining the military or keeping up with military life and benefits, Military.com has you covered. Subscribe to the Military.com newsletter to have military news, updates and resources delivered straight to your inbox.