Support helped Jones family pull through

There was a moment after her husband was killed in Iraq that Karen Jones will never forget.


She was riding down Bobby Jones Expressway on the way to Hillcrest Memorial Park on Deans Bridge Road to bury Staff Sgt. David Randall Jones Sr., who was killed after a bomb exploded near his Humvee in Baghdad. As the funeral procession passed under Interstate 20, traffic on the busy thoroughfare slowed to a stop. Fire trucks, ambulances and police cruisers from all over the state came to a halt, and some people got out of their cars on the shoulder to show their respect.

"We were all kind of amazed," she said.

In the year after her husband's death, Jones was in a daze. She relied heavily on her faith and the support of her fellow churchgoers at Columbia County Christian Church in Martinez. She quit her job as a medical coder at Medical College of Georgia Hospital and spent the rest of the year "doing nothing."

"I just couldn't handle working and him being gone," she said.

Jones had attended church the morning she learned her husband had been killed. With her two children, David Jr., whose nickname is Randy, and Kristina in tow, Jones had lunch at CiCi's Pizza before returning home. Outside stood two Army officers.

"I said, 'Please tell me you're not here for me,' because when you see them you know what it is," she said.

Within minutes, members of her church were at her apartment to console her.

"The day the guys were at my door, they hadn't even left yet, and half of my church was in my apartment," she said. "All of those people were there to support us and pray for us. God just got us through."

Jones said her children were home from college at the time and dealt with the loss of their father differently.

Kristina, 27, who attended her parents' alma mater of Johnson Bible College in Knoxville, Tenn., relied on a network of friends from school to get through the hard parts.

"Kristi is still having a hard time with it," Jones said.

Randy, 28, was in school at Florida Christian College. Jones said he "basically toughed it out on his own."

Throughout the ordeal, Jones said, she and her family have been blessed by their "quirky sense of humor." It even showed up during her darkest moment.

As the Army officer sat in her living room and told her how her husband died, she could tell he'd never before delivered such awful news.

"It was the first time this guy's had to do this, so he's reading this letter and says, 'Your husband, David Randall Jones Jr., was struck by an IED and is dead,' " she said. "I said, 'No, he's not, he's standing right there.' "

David Randall Jones Jr. is the name of the couple's son. The Army had the name wrong.

"He said, 'But, but, but,' and kept reading the letter," she said with a laugh.

Today, Jones is back working, teaching third grade at her Martinez church. She spoke to a reporter just a few days before the anniversary of her husband's death July 30. She didn't know whether she would visit his grave.

"David is not there," she said. "David is in heaven."

She didn't go. After the anniversary passed, Jones mostly tried to "hide" that day. She sometimes only realizes it's the day he died when it's over, and that's the way she prefers it. This year, Jones had some friends come pray with her.

Both Jones' birthday and her husband's are in July, which makes the grief even more potent. It's also very difficult for her daughter, who Jones said is in denial and doesn't like to "get together for remembering."

Instead, they like to think about the everyday stuff that sparks a cherished memory of the husband and father.

"We will be someplace or see something and think, 'David or dad, depending on the rememberer, would really like this, or David would say this," Jones said. "We still take trips and look at all the historical markers on the way because that's what David would do."

Jones' fun-loving ways served him in life