CLEVELAND — "A Journal For Jordan" opens in theaters nationwide on Christmas Eve.
Big Hollywood names like Denzel Washington and Michael B. Jordan are among those attached to the movie.
Though not shown on screen, you should know Northeast Ohio plays a role in the real-life love story.
For it is about a former Plain Dealer reporter, Dana Canedy, and her fiancé, Charles King, a true "son of Cleveland".
King writes a journal of love and fatherly advice to his infant son while serving in Iraq. Canedy, who today is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Senior Vice President of Simon & Schuster, penned a memoir about the journal.
First Sgt. Charles King was killed in action near Baghdad on Oct. 14, 2006, when an improvised explosive device detonated under his armored vehicle. His son with Canedy was just 6-months-old at the time. Canedy first wrote an article about the journal for The New York Times, and followed up with the book "A Journal For Jordan," as a way to process her grief.
King grew up in the Lee-Seville neighborhood, went to Lutheran East, played sports, and saw firsthand as a teen, the sacrifices made by those who serve our country. Both his parents worked at the Brecksville V.A. Hospital.
"My brother and I, as kids would go out to the hospital. We saw firsthand, the price of war on our men and women. And so I think that had a huge impression on Chuck as well," recalled Gail King Gibson, who is Charles' younger sister by seven years.
Loved ones recall Charles King as thoughtful, protective, fiercely loyal, and a man of incredible integrity who delayed coming home and missed Jordan's birth, because he felt a duty to remain until all those in his unit had gone home first.
He did have the chance to meet Jordan when his son was a few months old, but would have to return to Iraq. It was 2006, one of the deadliest years for U.S. troops. King's sister says he didn't talk much about his experiences, but the family knew the danger he faced.
"I think he knew he wasn't going to make it back home," said King Gibson.
The 200-page journal, written to Jordan, covered everything from the power of prayer, bible verses, family history, advice on dating, and why King loved Jordan's mother Dana Canedy so much.
"Charles found a way because he loved us so much of making sure that he would be present and have this ongoing conversation with his son for, for the rest of his life," Canedy said.
King's words to his son Jordan are poignant -- as is his artwork featured in the film as well, and soon to be on exhibit at Cleveland's Karamu House.
"Cleveland is the foundation for this incredible man and the work that he's done on behalf of serving our country, as well as this incredible visual art collection that he's left with us," said Tony Sias, Karamu House president and C.E.O.
To honor his legacy, King's loved ones created the Drawn To Love Foundation, a nonprofit to ensure underrepresented children are exposed to the arts.
"The purpose is to get children who are not ordinarily exposed to the arts, because so many of these programs have been pulled out of schools, to give them the opportunity to experience art," said King Gibson.
The Foundation will also tell the untold stories of African Americans in the armed services and their dedication to this country.
The movie honors King's legacy too. His family hopes, above all else, it reminds viewers of love for the country, and the sacrifices service members and their families make every day.
"I'm very proud of the way that Chuck was portrayed," said his sister.
"I don't even have the words to describe how grateful I am for this experience, both because it's going to help my son better understand his father. It furthers Charles' legacy, but also it speaks so much about military service in general. And so I'm grateful for this opportunity to share it," said Canedy.
Jordan Canedy King is 15 years old today. His mother says he shares many traits with his father. He recently attended the movie premiere, proudly wearing a pair of his father's shoes.
The exhibit of Charles King's artwork is scheduled to open at Karamu House on February 4th.
You can view more of King's artwork and purchase prints at CharlesKingImages.com.
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