Faces of Iraqi Freedom

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Jones' fun-loving ways served him in life

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Staff Sgt. David Jones and his wife, Karen, could have met several times throughout their lives.

Karen Jones says that family, friends and faith have helped her get through the past five years without her husband.  Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff
Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff
Karen Jones says that family, friends and faith have helped her get through the past five years without her husband.

Her father was a construction worker; his was in the Navy. They moved frequently growing up, sometimes missing each other in the same city by just a small span of time.

As it happened, fate waited until they were in college.

In 1980, she was a senior at Johnson Bible College, a small Christian School in Knoxville, Tenn. that emphasizes preaching ministries. Her future husband was a freshman.

She was broke and at that moment quite tired because it was the end of the week and she had been busy working for one of the professors to earn extra money. As she sat on a hill on the school's campus, Jones walked by.

He told her she looked tired and in an attempt to cheer her up, he quickly fell onto his back, shaking his arms and legs in the air in a move done by airmen sometimes called the "dead ant" or "dead bug."

The game is usually done in a bar, with someone yelling "dead bug" and all of the airmen falling on the floor at once. The last one standing must buy the next round of drinks. But this was no bar. It was the top of a steep hill, and before long Jones was rolling out of control to the bottom.

"It was a pretty big hill, too," Karen Jones said with a laugh.

His gamble paid off. They were inseparable after that. In the years to come, they would have two children. He would join the Navy, the Air Force Reserves and ultimately the National Guard.

THE FIRST TIME an improvised explosive device detonated near one of Jones' vehicles, he suffered a scratched cornea and was out of action for weeks. Afterward, his fellow soldiers joked that he couldn't chew tobacco with his busted lip.

On July 30, 2005, his unit, the 2nd Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment, 48th Infantry Brigade of the Army National Guard in Albany, Ga., was running patrols through Baghdad to find pockets of insurgents. Jones drove one of the Humvees, having switched with someone else on his first night back because of a doctor's appointment the next day.

The Humvee was hit by an IED, killing Jones, Sgt. 1st Class Victor A. Anderson, Sgt. Ronnie L. Shelley Sr. and Sgt. Jonathan C. Haggin. Army officials said the bomb contained more than 700 pounds of explosives.

Jones didn't have to deploy to Iraq, but he chose to. His National Guard unit was in Waynesboro, and at that time they weren't going to be called to go. He had the opportunity to transfer to Albany, and he took it.

Ever since leaving the Navy in 1986 when his children were toddlers, he had wanted to get back in the military, but weight problems kept him from meeting the requirements. So when he finally got back in, he wanted to take full advantage of his service time.

"He wanted to go," Karen Jones said. "That was just his dream. He wanted to help. He wanted to be part of the solution."

The couple also needed help financially, said Jones, who was a medical coder at Medical College of Georgia Hospital, and the extra money that comes with deploying to a war zone was certainly an incentive.

But to know her husband, she said, is to know that he loved the military and all the stories that go along with war.

JONES WAS AN avid reader of military history and often took his family to museums. He participated in massive board game military battles in his free time. Even his wedding day, June 6, was chosen to fall on one of the most historic dates in military history, the D-Day invasion of Nazi-controlled France in 1944.

"He in some ways was like a big kid," Karen Jones said. "He knew the reality of it. He knew the danger but it was still like 'I'm going to go play soldier.'"

This was his marriage proposal: In the hall before class he passed her a handwritten note full of dates -- all major battles. At the bottom it asked; "When should we get married?"

"I got really mad at him because it was Bible class and the first thing we had was to write down our memory verse," she said. "Here I open up this note and that was it. I flunked that test."

Richmond County sheriff's Deputy Edward Kirk worked with Jones for years at the county jail. Kirk, who retired from the Marine Corps, said he and Jones often shared stories of their time in the military. He said Jones had a way of not taking anything too seriously and making the jail a better place to work.

Kirk recalled a time when he was involved in an argument with one of his bosses. He was angry, but Jones calmed him down.

"David came in and told me 'They're only doing this to try to make you be better,'" Kirk said. "He always said, 'You can't look at the negative side, look at the positive side.'"

KAREN IS STILL struggling to take her husband's advice. Her feelings about the Iraq war seem mixed. She doesn't understand why other men are still fighting and dying so far from home. On the other hand, she wants the soldiers to leave with dignity and honor. She wants them to complete the mission they were sent there for, that her husband died for, even if she has a hard time understanding what that was.

"I just don't think the war was really defined well to start with," she said. "We didn't have a solid objective."

She paused for a moment to think.

"They went over there to free the Iraqi people, and they've done that," she said. "If they would declare, 'We're done, we've accomplished what we've said,' and bring the guys back, I wouldn't have a problem with that. But if they just bring them back and say the whole thing is worthless, then they are saying all those guys died for nothing."

She cites a letter given to her by the commander of her husband's unit that outlined their objectives, all of which he said they had accomplished.

"That was five years ago," she said. "So why do we need to stay over there and have more people die when we have done what we said we would do?"

Associated Press reports were used in this article.

Staff Sgt. David Randall Jones Sr.

Age: 45

Hometown: Portsmouth, Va.

Enlistment: Joined Navy in 1981

Deployed: May 2005

Killed: July 30, 2005, when an IED exploded near his Humvee in Baghdad

Unit: 2nd Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment, 48th Infantry Brigade of the Georgia Army National Guard in Albany, Ga.

Family: Wife, Karen Jones; son, David "Randy" Jones Jr., 28; daughter, Kristina Elaine Jones, 27; brothers Mike Jones and Brian Jones; sister, Linda Jones Smith

Medals: Purple Heart, Bronze Star

Other awards: A tree memorial at Fort Stewart contains a plaque with his name on it.


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