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Korean War soldier’s remains return to Nash County

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A Korean War veteran was memorialized Sunday following a weekend-long tribute upon the return of his remains to North Carolina soil after nearly 70 years.

The remains of Pfc. William “Hoover” Jones were recently recovered through joint efforts between the U.S. Defense Department, North Korean Army officials and Pentagon scientists. As many as 5,000 American soldiers still have not been identified as a result of the Korean War.

The family, select dignitaries and the U.S. Army Honor Guard from Fort Bragg, along with the Rocky Mount Police Department and Edgecombe and Nash County sheriff’s deputies, escorted Jones’ hearse from Raleigh-Durham International Airport to H.D. Pope Funeral Home in Rocky Mount.

Members of the public paid their respects to Jones on Friday in the state Capitol where his remains lay in state for several hours. Gov. Roy Cooper laid a wreath in his memory and presented Jones’ family with United States and North Carolina flags flown over the state Capitol. Cooper also ordered North Carolina and United States flags to fly at half-staff from sunup to sundown Friday in memory of Jones and all those who have fought overseas and never returned home.

A community memorial service was held Sunday at Word Tabernacle Church. Pastor and state Rep. James D. Gailliard, D-Nash, officiated the service with remarks offered by U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, N.C. Military and Veterans Affairs Secretary Larry Hall and retired Gen. Arnold Gordon-Bray.

Hall, a former officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, described Jones as “an ordinary American who exhibited extraordinary faith in America’s promise freedom and now he can be fully honored for making the ultimate sacrifice for all Americans.”

Hall further said in remarks on Monday, “Private Hoover Jones joined the military to serve his country, and to fulfill the promise he saw in America by giving his service for what he thought would be a better future for him, his family and his community. Of course we do have to ask the question now, ‘Have we lived up to the promise he saw when he volunteered to serve and died in a foreign land?’ And that’s what we owe him — the promise to fulfill what he saw in us.”

From the floor of the U.S. House on Monday, Butterfield entered his remarks from Jones’ memorial service into the national historic record.

“This nation is indebted to Pfc. Jones for his service to our country and for offering the highest sacrifice for freedom, his life,” Butterfield said. “I am confident that he volunteered not only to defend our nation and our nation’s interests but to seek a better future for himself.”

“Pfc. Jones represents a generation of young African American men who stood for this country when this country didn’t stand for them.”

Jones enlisted at age18 as an infantryman in one of America’s last segregated units in 1950 and did not return home until Thursday. A native of Red Oak, Jones was a member of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division during the Korean War.

He was reported missing in action in North Korea on Nov. 26, 1950 and declared dead by the Army on Dec. 31, 1953.

Jones was posthumously awarded 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, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea turned over 55 boxes containing remains of U.S. service members killed during the Korean War to the United States. Scientists from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii later individually identified Jones among them.

Jones is survived by three sisters, Ida Dickens, Thelma Jones Hilliard and Elizabeth Jones Ohree. He will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on Aug. 22.