In Memoriam

In Memoriam:

The average age of death for a Vietnam Veteran is approximately 58 years old. Most of the men in our group have defied those odds but unfortunately on February 27, 2013, Robert Lee Jones of Goldsboro, NC passed away. His wake was on his 64th birthday, March 3, 2013.

He was one of the very first men I interviewed for my oral history project. He was the “spark” in our group and offered so much encouragement to the others to participate. He was a brave soldier…he will be deeply missed…he will always be loved…


“Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13: 1-2)

Everyone filed in one after another to see him one last time to honor him perhaps. I sat outside and watched the sunset on this cold crisp day. It’s bright orange radiance cut through slices of blue heaven. At the horizon the sun was almost gone now. My dad walked slowly from the church to join me. Snow birds were circling the sky.

After a short time, we both went back inside to sit with my mother, sisters and the rest of the veterans from our group. Music played quietly as people spoke about the good times. Every fifteen minutes, the servicemen who stood guard by his casket changed post. It was a precise, methodically disciplined maneuver as they stood watch over this fallen soldier. I could see from a distance that he was dressed in his uniform…peaceful…no longer feeling the pain from the cancer and other service connected illnesses. Oh, how war often ravages the body leaving behind the residue that fragments and fractures the soul of a man.

There were so many veterans there. You could tell because they all wore black leather jackets (from their days of riding Harley’s and racing fast cars) which distinguishes them just as much as their military caps. They covered almost half of the church. The mood changed from somber to festive as the wake was nearing its end. Memories triggered laughter and tears as we left this tiny church sitting in the middle of absolutely nowhere. The parking lot was just as jammed packed as the church as we all pondered how will we get out and home and back to the funeral the next day. This man loved fast cars, good food, cowboy boots and making others laugh. And we loved him…he had been a part of our group since the beginning…in 1999 when it all started. We will always remember him.

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