Ceremony celebrates fallen soldier's life

William H Jones.jpg.jpg

Pfc. William Hoover Jones


Staff Writer

Monday, June 24, 2019

The remains of a Nash County soldier who died on a North Korean battlefield nearly 70 years ago were returned home Sunday to a celebration of his life and sacrifice.

U.S. Army Pfc. William Hoover Jones was honored by family, friends, veterans and well wishers during a memorial service at Word Tabernacle Church in Rocky Mount.

Jones signed up to fight communism in North Korea. Given his intelligence, he could have done anything, but he chose to defend his nation. His small unit faced 250,000 Chinese soldiers near Pakchon, North Korea. Jones couldn’t be found when his unit made a fighting withdrawal in November 1950, said retired Gen. Arnold Gordon-Bray.

The general thanked Jones for proving America is one nation.

“Without Pvt. Jones there would be no Gen. Arnold Gordon-Bray. There would be no President Barack Obama without Gen. Colin Powell,” Gordon-Bray said.

Gregory Ohree, a nephew of Jones, said he has been asked several times in recent days why it’s so important the search continues for soldiers lost so long ago. His answer every time: For the families.

“I hope they never stop looking,” Ohree said.

Jones’ family waited seven decades for his return and he is finally home, Ohree said.

Jones showed bravery to leave home. He had hope and faith in a new opportunity through military service. He paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure such opportunities for others, Ohree said.

U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-1st District, thanked H.D. Pope Funeral Home for going above and beyond with the ceremony.

Butterfield, an Army veteran, thanked veterans for making the trip to honor Jones. Butterfield extended official congressional gratitude for Jones’ service.

“He stood for his country when his country did not stand for him,” Butterfield said, explaining that Jones’ commanding officer was court martialed for refusing to return his all-black unit to the overwhelming killing fields.

Jones’ inspirational life story is the subject of a film being made in North Carolina, said Larry Hall, secretary of the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Word Tabernacle pastor the Rev. James Gailliad, who officiated the ceremony, presented a message of inspiration. Gailliard, a state representative for Nash County, said everyone present was gathered to honor a sacrifice made 70 years ago.

Preaching from II Timothy, Gailliard compared Christian life to a soldier’s life — something Jones understood as both. His family says Jones accepted Christ as his savior at 15 years old.

Gailliard said the Christian life isn’t lived on the playground but the battleground.

Like soldiers, Christians enlist for combat.

“What fight are you going to fight? What are you going to do to make society better?” Gailliard asked the packed house.

Everything we enjoy in life is because someone sacrificed, Gailliard said, invoking Jesus’ name and turning the solemn ceremony into a soaring sermon.

Posthumously, Jones received the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal.

Last year, North Korea released 55 coffins containing the remains of fallen U.S. soldiers. Jones’ remains were identified with the help of DNA and military and X-ray records.

Jones’ remains arrived in Raleigh on Thursday and laid in state at the state capital Friday, the first to do so as a member of the military.

Jones will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery. In memory of Jones, state and U.S. flags were flown at half-staff on Friday.