Remains of fallen soldier to return home
BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Thursday, June 20, 2019
The remains of a local soldier who lost his life 68½ years ago fighting in the Korean War are being returned to the American mainland today and for a time will be in the Tar Heel State.
Plans are for the casket of the late U.S. Army Pvt. 1st Class William Hoover Jones to arrive by midmorning at Raleigh-Durham International Airport. From there, the remains will be taken to H.D. Pope Funeral Home in Rocky Mount.
The remains will be taken to Raleigh to lie in state at the state capital on Friday. A memorial service is planned for Sunday afternoon at a church in Rocky Mount.
Gregory Ohree, of Rocky Mount and a nephew of Jones, told the Telegram he is seeking to remain reserved.
“I’m just trying to calm myself down so I won’t get too excited about things, because I know it’s a tremendous honor for my uncle to be recognized and to be acknowledged as a national hero — and also for the world as well, too,” Ohree said.
“Personally, I’m trying to take things in stride as far as I’m concerned,” Ohree said. “But I know (today) is going to be the big day.”
He emphasized he is the family’s contact person for the public and the family is looking to him to communicate information.
“So I just want to contain myself as much as possible, be reserved as best I can,” he said.
He told the Telegram his uncle will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery in August.
Jones, 19, was considered missing in action in the Korean War.
As a result of efforts by President Trump, North Korean Communist dictator Kim Jong-un in July released 55 coffins containing the remains of fallen U.S. soldiers.
Jones’ remains subsequently were identified with the help of DNA and military and X-ray records. Jones’ remains were kept in Hawaii.
Plans today call for Jones’ remains to be escorted from RDU to Rocky Mount by the Patriot Guard Riders, a group of motorcyclists who provide escorts for soldiers’ funerals and shield them from potential protesters.
Charles Bullock Sr. was a U.S. Army soldier who served three tours of duty during the Vietnam War and presently is assistant state captain of the Patriot Guard Riders.
Bullock told the Telegram the escort of Jones’ remains will be standard operating procedure.
“We treat all veterans with respect,” Bullock said.
“They all paid the same price” in defending their country and freedom, Bullock said.
Noting a small percentage of Americans serve in the military, he said he and his fellow veterans say those who serve or who have served are considered their “brothers by another mother.”
“And they’re our brothers and sisters — and they’re family to us,” he said.
State Rep. James Gailliard, D-Nash, told the Telegram Jones’ remains will arrive at 10:12 a.m. today at RDU via Delta Flight 1294.
H.D. Pope Funeral Home is located at 325 Nash St. The distance from the airport to the funeral home is 72 miles, with the driving time being nearly an hour and 15 minutes.
Gailliard will be serving in two roles for the return of Jones’ remains.
Gailliard said the plan on Friday is for Jones’ remains to lie in state at the state capital from 10 a.m. into the early to midafternoon.
Gailliard said he will be with Gov. Roy Cooper, with the plan being for North Carolina’s chief executive to lay a wreath.
A Cooper spokesman said the governor has ordered all state and U.S. flags to be flown at half-staff on Friday in memory of Jones.
The memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Word Tabernacle Church. The house of worship is just off the Hunter Hill Road bridge over North Wesleyan Boulevard.
Gailliard will be the officiating minister.
“I’ve given a little bit of thought about what I’m going to say, but I’m still preparing remarks,” Gailliard said. “It’s a humbling experience for me, given the story. I mean, it is a remarkable story.”
Gailliard referred to Jones having been so young. He considers Jones to have been a child back then.
Gailliard spoke of Jones going from a rural community to the Korean Peninsula to, in essence, fight on behalf of a United States still not fully welcoming of him.
“I mean, clearly, his bravery and his service was for generations to follow,” Gailliard said. “So I do think it is appropriate for us who are recipients of that kind of sacrifice to honor that sacrifice.”