Just before the sun peaked over the horizon, Army Ranger veterans of Operation Urgent Fury unloaded from vehicles along the perimeter fence of the Maurice Bishop International Airport on Oct. 25. Instead of automatic gunfire, the sound of waves hitting the beach and moos from cows filled the air. 

Four decades after the invasion of Grenada, former Army Ranger medics from 2nd Ranger Battalion had returned to within meters of where they landed in parachutes, pointing out old positions of enemy machine gun nests, armor, and anti-aircraft weapons. But two of the four Rangers there that morning shared a common bond outside of that forged by combat or the Ranger scroll. 

Jesse Denman talked through the events he experienced long ago with his son, Jariko. The “Plymouth Rock” for the Denman family, Jariko remembers his dad and his Ranger buddies deploying, coming home, and how integral that operation was to their lives going forward. 

“It’s something that we kind of felt like we were a part of because we were there when he got alerted. And, when they came back, the welcome home and all that —  I remember that as a kid,” Jariko said. “So it’s something that’s been a big part of our life as a family since then.”

Before Operation Urgent Fury took place, the Rangers had been activated and stood down five or six times, and Jesse didn’t grab his camera during the last activation. There weren’t a lot of photos that came back with the Rangers either, but going there and seeing it yourself is much better than any photo, especially when it’s with your dad and the Rangers that you grew up around. 

“So it’s like, few and far between to get imagery of it and see what the place looked like. So to finally come back and see it is pretty special — pretty cool,” Jariko said. “Also, just being a big history guy and a Ranger history guy, even if my dad didn’t jump in, it would be pretty awesome for me to come here and see it.”

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Both father and son planned a return to Grenada during the 35th anniversary of the operation, but unforeseen circumstances led to canceling that trip — something that turned out to be a good thing.

“From talking to people that were here on the 35th anniversary, this one’s so much better. This trip was really awesome,” Jesse said. “You know, all of the students [rescued from the campus] were here, and [Jariko] was here. He saw all the places I was at when I was a young stud. Not many people get to do that with their kid.” 

Jariko and Jesse don’t usually discuss war stories, but in this setting, the two shared things neither had discussed before. Jariko was only four years old when the Urgent Fury took place, but he remembers seeing his dad and his friends go off to war and how it inspired him to earn the Ranger scroll himself someday. 

“I didn’t just have my dad as a role model. I had my dad, and I had all his buddies as role models. I got to see what leadership meant — from the time I was like, fucking five years old,” Jariko said. “I got to see what camaraderie, true friendship, resiliency, and adaptability was. I learned all those things just from being in that ecosphere as a kid.”

Jariko set the standard of what a Ranger is and what they are capable of in two different Ranger battalions over the course of 15 combat deployments and a 20-year career in the military. But just as the Grenada Raiders played a part in Jariko’s life, their efforts served as a formative event for not just the 75th Ranger Regiment but also the Joint Special Operations Command. 

Between the two of them, Jesse and Jariko cover a large portion of the history behind the storied 75th Ranger Regiment. Jariko was first assigned to a jump clearing team (JCT) in the 2nd Ranger Battalion. So whenever he flies anywhere or jumps out of a plane, he’s always thinking about how he’d approach an airfield seizure. 

“I trained seizing airfields more than I trained on anything else throughout my career, and I never did it. So to come here to a spot that was an airfield that was seized in the manner that we trained, it’s super fucking interesting,” Jariko said. “To look at it and just think about, you know, how I would have ‘skinned the cat.’”

The goal of a JCT is to jump in, seize the airfield, and provide air traffic control and assistance, clearing the runway of obstacles and landing friendly aircraft and armor. That capability was first validated during Operation Urgent Fury. 

“To this day, the 75th Ranger Regiment is the only organization in the U.S. arsenal that can do that in a single period of darkness and execute it with all the logistics, all the support, everything,” Jariko said. 

But, he explains, ​​Operation Urgent Fury is also one of the first missions that the shadowy Joint Special Operations Command took on as a young organization. 

“Everything kind of started to form around the end of Grenada into what it pretty much looks like now, with other tiered units and Rangers being in kind of this homogenous environment to where one hand washes the other,” Jariko said. “All the capabilities come together to plan and conduct special operations in support of United States policies and objectives.”

Jariko got to see where his dad and his fellow Rangers fought. He was able to better wrap his head around the thought process behind the operation through their stories and seeing the land himself. But he also enjoyed running the maps, the layout of the land through his approach to an airfield seizure, but said the Rangers before him carried it out “not flawlessly, but excellently.”

For his father, Jesse, he was able to relive all the blood, sweat, and tears that went into the operation with his son there with him. But what stood out to him the most was the secondary and third-order effects liberating the island had. 

“That campus produces 1,000 doctors a year — A YEAR, you know.  Times that by 40 years, that’s 40,000 doctors, and think of all the good that they’ve done in the world,” Jesse said. “That hits you right between the horns. That’s something that I had a play in making sure that it happened. It renewed my pride in this whole thing.”

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