Arlington – StoryCorps
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A Family’s Rise from Tobacco Sharecroppers to Generations of Achievement

In the early 1960s, Percy White III lived on a farm in Dinwiddie County, Virginia with his grandparents, his parents, and his two sisters. The house had no electricity and no running water. To get water, Percy’s family had to carry it from a nearby creek.

The land they lived on wasn’t theirs; it was owned by a man named Robert Marek, who people called Mr. Marks. Percy’s family worked the fields.

Percy came to StoryCorps with his friend Terry Wright, where he shared what life on the farm was like.

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Top Photo: Percy White III is held by his father, Percy White, Jr, circa 1963. Courtesy of Percy White III.
Bottom Photo: Percy Ell White III and his friend Terry Wright at their StoryCorps interview on October 7, 2012 in Arlington, Virginia. By Erin Dickey for StoryCorps.

Originally aired August 3, 2018, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Jenna Henderson and Laurie Laychak

On June 17, 2007, Army Sgt. First Class Chris Henderson and two other soldiers were killed when an improvised explosive device detonated near their Humvee in Afghanistan.

Henderson5Chris enlisted in the Army during his senior year of high school, and soon after graduating in June 1991; he went off to boot camp. He spent more than 15 years in the military serving tours of duty in Bosnia and Kosovo, and was still in uniform when the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, occurred.

A month later, in October 2001, Operation Enduring Freedom began and in January 2007, Chris was deployed to the Kandahar Province in Afghanistan where he was part of a team working to help train Afghan National Army forces. Chris was killed on Father’s Day of that year; he was 35 years old. Henderson3He is survived by his wife, Jenna Henderson, and his 8-year-old daughter, Kayley.

Jenna and Chris met while in their 20s and had been married for seven years before he was killed. The family lived together in Fort Lewis, Washington, where Chris was based. He was a loving husband and a devoted father, and Jenna says, a total goofball. She remembers coming home to find Chris and 18-month-old Kayley in their bathing suits playing in mud puddles or riding on Chris’ motorcycle. The two were inseparable.

Now 18, Kayley bears a striking resemblance to her father. “When she’s upset, her little eyebrow twitches,” says Jenna, “And when she smiles, she’s kind of got that little crooked smile he had.” She has even participated in Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) at her high school and is hoping to soon get her motorcycle license.

Jenna still misses Chris terribly and holds on to one of the last letters she received from him. Henderson2“In it he said, how much he loved me and how he was glad that he had married me, and that he wouldn’t have changed that for the world.”

Jenna came to StoryCorps with Laurie Laychak (left), a mentor she met through the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) — an organization that offers compassionate care to those grieving the death of a loved one serving in the Armed Forces—to share memories of Chris.

Originally aired September 3, 2016, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.

Family photos of Chris, Jenna, and Kayley courtesy of Jenna Henderson.

Leo Argel, Nick Argel, Steven Argel, and Ollie Cantos

Fourteen-year-old triplets Leo, Nick and Steven Argel (above left to right) have been blind since birth. Growing up, their single mother had a hard time caring for them, and she rarely allowed them outside their home.

But when they were 10 years old, Ollie Cantos(above)—another blind man in their community—got word of their situation and knocked on their door. At StoryCorps, the four men talked about growing up with blindness. Ollie begins their conversation.

Ollie is now in the process of formally adopting the brothers.

Originally aired February 21, 2014, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Barbara Amaya and Bianca Belteton

When she was 12, Barbara Amaya ran away from an abusive home. She ended up on the streets of Washington D.C. where she was picked up by sex traffickers and forced into prostitution.

At StoryCorps, Barbara spoke with her daughter, Bianca Belteton, about the years that followed.

Originally aired February 7, 2014, on NPR’s Morning Edition.