Soldier's burial helps bring closure to family
BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Saturday, August 24, 2019
U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield on Friday gave his thoughts of having paid final respects to U.S. Army Pfc. William Hoover Jones at Arlington National Cemetery.
"It was an experience that I shall never forget," Butterfield, D-1st-District, told the Telegram of the funeral, which was on Thursday morning.
"The Department of Defense treated this matter as they would have treated the president of the United States or a member of Congress who was being buried in Arlington Cemetery," Butterfield said.
Jones, 19, was from Nash County and was known by his middle name. Jones lost his life more than 68½ years ago fighting as an infantryman in the Korean War.
Jones was considered missing in action, but as a result of efforts by President Trump, North Korean Communist dictator Kim Jong Un in July 2018 released 55 coffins containing the remains of fallen U.S. soldiers. Jones' remains were subsequently identified with the help of DNA and military and X-ray records.
Butterfield on Thursday spoke at the service for Jones, which was at Fort Myer Old Post Chapel.
Butterfield also went to the interment site, which he noted is within walking distances of both the grave of President John F. Kennedy and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Butterfield said as a student of history, he could not help but reflect on the historical significance of this tragic loss.
He noted although President Truman had issued an executive order to desegregate America's armed forces, Jones served in the 24th Infantry Regiment when regiment’s leadership still had not complied with the commander in chief.
And he noted after Jones enlisted in the Army, Jones received a very expedited, inadequate basic training because the U.S. was in dire need of soldiers on the battlefield. And he noted Jones was immediately deployed to the front lines.
"So, that was kind of what was going through my mind – and the fact that Hoover Jones had options," Butterfield said.
"He was a high school graduate when he enlisted in the Army," Butterfield said. "He had alternatives. He could have gone to college. He could have started a vocation, but instead he chose to go into the Army – and serve and to fight for a country that was not fighting for his civil rights."
Butterfield said when he spoke in the chapel, he emphasized the funeral closes the book on a 67-year mystery of the disappearance of the family's loved one. Butterfield noted he could see family members nodding their heads in agreement.
"The family can go through life now recognizing that their loved one paid the ultimate price for America's freedom – and he is a hero, an American hero, a military hero," Butterfield said. "He has been laid alongside other war heroes who also gave of their lives."
U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., on Friday told the Telegram in a statement that, “I’m pleased that one of our nation’s heroes and a brave North Carolinian was properly honored and laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery after so many years.”
U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., on Friday told the Telegram in a statement that, “Nash County native William Hoover Jones was an American hero who lost his life in defense of our nation.
"North Carolinians will be forever grateful for his service and sacrifice during the Korean War – and many will now be able to honor him back home at Arlington National Cemetery,” Tillis said.
Jones' remains were kept in Hawaii before being flown to Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
On June 20, the remains were transported in a motorcade from the airport to H.D. Pope Funeral Home in downtown Rocky Mount, with the Patriot Guard Riders providing an escort.
The next day, the remains were transported to lie in state at the state capital, where Gov. Roy Cooper read a proclamation and laid a wreath. A couple of days later, a memorial service was held at Word Tabernacle Church in Rocky Mount.
Gregory Ohree, who is a nephew of Jones, told the Telegram on Friday that what happened the day before in Arlington was phenomenal.
"I've never seen anything like it in my life," Ohree said. "I was just in awe about the things that happened – and, once again, we were treated very well."
The Patriot Guard Riders on Wednesday provided an escort from Rocky Mount.
As whether he and his family members have a sense of peace as a result of Jones' remains being laid to rest, Ohree said, "Yes, absolutely."
And as far as closure, Ohree said, "We're very satisfied that everything turned out the way it did."