Kevin McCray Jones
Washington, North Carolina
September 22, 2005
Killed near Al Taqaddum, Iraq, on Sept. 22, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle.
|From Christopher Haislip 05/11/07:
I have known him since Kindergarden and we stayed pretty close growing up. I still think about him daily, all the good times that we had together growing up. Some of the crazy things that Kevin and I did bring a smile to his mother's face every time I mention them. I really appreciate your response, and the fact that he was already listed on your website. Kevin really enjoyed what he did in the Army. He enjoyed being in Iraq and enjoyed helping out he Iraqi people. According to Kevin, the Iraqi people enjoyed having him around, like a friend. Most of the Iraqi people wanted the American soldiers there and were very friendly towards them.
|From The News&Observer newsobserver.com
WASHINGTON, N.C. -- In a bigger place, Kevin Jones wouldn't have had time to leave much of a mark.
He was, after all, barely 21 when he was fatally wounded Sept. 22 in Iraq, the life leaking out of him even as he cracked jokes to another wounded soldier on the medevac helicopter.
Spc. Kevin McCray Jones was the 37th serviceman who called North Carolina home to be killed in the Iraq war.
His death wasn't some sort of national milestone. He wasn't No. 2,000, nor was he the first female helicopter pilot to be killed, the oldest soldier, or the youngest. He won't be the last -- at least 19 more U.S. troops have been killed there already, according to an Associated Press database.
He wasn't even the only Jones. There have been nine others.
But his death was the one that brought the war back to his small city, to his family, and to Second Baptist Church, where nearly 400 people filed past his casket Friday night. On Saturday he was eulogized before a crowd so big the church had to run a television feed to a second room.
Few institutions underpin rural America like volunteer fire departments, where people risk their lives for free to protect their fellow residents from fires. Jones joined the Old Ford Volunteer Fire Department just north of the city when he was 16. A couple of years later, he became an emergency medical technician.
"It's like a piece of the foundation is gone," said Bryan Lilley, 24, who had served with Jones at the fire department since Jones joined and who led him into his first structure fire. "You could always depend on him. Always. If you told him to be somewhere at 7 in the morning, he was there at 6:30 cooking you breakfast."
Lilley and other members of Old Ford were among the first in line Friday night for visitation.
Jones' death, they said, erased one of the widest grins Beaufort County had ever seen.
Jones was happiest tinkering with his Toyota pickup, racing to fight a fire, treating an accident victim, fishing for catfish. He didn't care much for schoolwork, said Lt. Col. Tom Meeks, Jones' JROTC instructor at Washington High.
"He was an action kid, not a book kid," Meeks said. "It was 'Let me get my hands on it, let me get out in the woods, but don't make me sit down and write a paper.' And when he started something, he really jumped into it. There were no half measures with Kevin."
He got his diploma in 2002. For a few months afterward, he worked in the auto department at Wal-Mart with his friend since kindergarten, Christopher Haislip.
In school, Jones channeled his energy toward helping out, even when the role was literally behind the scenes: For the school drama department, he and Haislip were "tech rats," running the lights and other equipment so the actors could be in the spotlight.
He played football, too. Lilley was a senior on the team when Jones was a freshman trying his best to play like the older boys.
"You could knock him down 100 times," Lilley said, "and he'd still be up before you every time, grinning."
A military family
Haislip said Jones was the most patriotic person he knew, and it wasn't a surprise when he left Wal-Mart to join the Army. The Joneses are a military family. Jones' older brother, Ken, a truck driver who lives in nearby Chocowinity, served in the Marines.
His father, Kenneth, is a Navy commander who also works as an aerospace engineer for NASA, commuting weekly to Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. Jones' mother, Rebecca, works for the county health department, and his sister, Kamlyn, is a doctor in Greenwood, S.C. His brother said Saturday that Jones thought that what he was doing in Iraq was one more way to help people and that the Iraqis needed him. "He really thought there was a need to be there, and he wanted to go back after that first time," Ken Jones said.
During the service, the Rev. Phil Hayes, the pastor of Second Baptist, quoted a letter that Jones had mailed to the Washington Daily News last year. "All I am asking is that you don't be afraid of supporting us," Jones wrote. "We were not forced to serve in the Armed Forces, we volunteered. We stand ready to protect you, and watch over you, while we spend many months far from home, training for the worst, that you may rest comfortably in your home, and watch your children grow up to follow their dreams."
In the Army, his love for hands-on work and action led Jones to a job with a transportation unit based in Germany, and from there to a particularly dangerous job in Iraq. Always a volunteer The improvised roadside bomb is the Iraqi insurgent's deadliest weapon against U.S. troops, and the risk that American soldiers face is proportional to the amount of time they spend on the roads. Jones surely knew that when he died. It was his second deployment in Iraq, and he had already lost some of his hearing in April when a bomb hit another truck he was riding in. But he always volunteered to go out rather than hang around base, said his brother, Ken. It was on a road near Al Taqaddum, west of Baghdad, that the bomb exploded near his truck.
This time, his wounds were worse, but he was still able to talk and joke around as he was flown to a field hospital. There, Marines with his blood type lined up to provide transfusions, a futile gesture. No one was home at the Jones residence when the soldiers from Fort Bragg arrived Sept. 23, so a neighbor drove to the county health department to get his mother. Jones' friend Haislip worked in the same office, and someone told him, too.
Saturday morning, the volunteer firefighters were honorary pallbearers, and the church was jammed. Five fire trucks led the procession to the cemetery, where three more fire trucks were waiting, one with a flag the size of a bed wafting from its bucket. More than 300 people ringed the grave, including a wall of Old Ford firefighters in monogrammed white shirts. These days, there are so many military funerals that the families often have to make do with minimal military honor detachments and recorded versions of taps. Not this time.
The honor guard of the entire XVIII Airborne Corps drove up from Fort Bragg. Maj. Gen. Virgil L. Packett II, the acting commanding general of the corps and of Bragg, took the flag from the coffin, fell to one knee and handed it to the soldier's mother, Rebecca Jones. "This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Army as a token of appreciation for your loved one's honorable and faithful service," he said. Later, the people who knew Kevin Jones walked away from the grave, thinking about their own words to describe him: Gung- ho. Enthusiastic. Happy.
Lilley, the firefighter, had his own in mind. "If you had to describe Kevin in a word," he said, "there was only one word, and that was 'Kevin.' " The other firefighters standing around nodded. Then they did what Kevin would have done. They grinned. Jones' family asked that any contributions be made to any fire department or emergency medical service.
|War sacrifice hits home
Greenwood doctor's brother killed in Iraq
September 30, 2005
By GREG DEAL
Index-Journal managing editor
The cost of freedom in Iraq has exacted its first price on Greenwood and the family of a soldier.
But it was a price the sister of Army Spc. Kevin McCray Jones said the young man was willing to pay to protect Americans.
The brother of Dr. Kamlyn Grey Jones, of Greenwood, died last week in a roadside bombing in Iraq.
Kevin, 21, of Washington, N.C., was killed Sept. 22 near Al Taqaddurn, Iraq.
“He believed in what he did,” Kamlyn said Thursday from the family home in Washington. “I’m incredibly proud of my brother.”
Kamlyn found out about the death through a phone call at her Montgomery Center office on the Self Regional Medical Center campus. She is in her final year of residency in family medicine.
Kamlyn said that the last time her brother visited her in Greenwood, she begged him for a picture of himself in uniform.
He agreed to give her two.
She put those pictures on her desk at work, and they were there the day she got the call informing her of the death.
“After his first tour, he came home and talked about how much he liked the Iraqi people,” Kamlyn said. “He knew there were terrorists there, but the people he knew, he said they were good people. They were like Southerners. They were so nice and welcoming.
“He knew there were risks. … He knew what he was doing was what was right.”
In April, Kevin was injured in Iraq and earned a Purple Heart. He lost part of his hearing after a bomb explosion.
A second Purple Heart and Bronze Star will be awarded posthumously.
He was a transportation specialist and a member of the 181st Transportation Battalion, 7th Corps Support Group, 3rd Corps Support Command stationed in Mannheim, Germany.
It’s the first known casualty directly connected to an immediate family member from Greenwood County.
Kimberly Hampton, a Presbyterian College graduate and former tennis standout at the school, was the area’s only other reported Iraq casualty during the past two years. She died in January 2004 when her helicopter came under attack.
Kevin’s funeral service will be 11 a.m. Saturday at Second Baptist Church in Washington, N.C. Burial will be with full military honors at Oakdale Cemetery.
Kevin wrote a letter to the editor of the Washington (N.C.) Daily News that was published Oct. 30, 2004. Kevin talked about his mission.
“It greatly concerns me that though many of my fellow Americans support what we are doing in the Middle East, we don’t get to see it because of, what I presume, fear of retribution from persons who may have a better political standing,” he wrote. “I know that it only takes one person to make returning veterans feel as if they have done the ‘wrong thing,’ but it can also be turned around by one person stopping and just telling them, ‘Welcome home, and thank you.’”
Kamlyn told The Index-Journal her favorite part of the letter follows: “All I am asking is that you don’t be afraid of supporting us. We were not forced to serve in the armed forces. We volunteered. We stand ready to protect you and watch over you while we spend many months far from home, training for the worst, that you may rest comfortably in your home and watch your children to grow up to follow their dreams. I thank you, and my fellow service members thank you.”
Kamlyn said, “The best thing about it is that it says, in his own words, he was doing what he believed was right.”
Kevin was the youngest of four children. His father is a semi-retired Navy veteran.
Kamlyn said Kevin wanted to be in the military all his life. He went into the military right after high school and went to Iraq soon after going through training.
Kamlyn visited Kevin in Germany last summer.
“He was still pretty busy,” she said. “We would get together and talk.”
And she never doubted his commitment or his love for his country.
The Washington (N.C.) Daily News and Daily News writer Mike Voss contributed to this story.
|Spc. Kevin M. Jones
WASHINGTON, N.C. — Army Spc. Kevin McCray Jones, 21, died Thursday, Sept. 22, 2005 while serving in Iraq near Al Taqaddum.
Born in Beaufort County, he was a son of Kenneth Morris Jones and Rebecca Parsons Jones. He was a 2002 graduate of Washington High School, where he was a member of the JROTC program. He attended Beaufort County Community College, receiving machinist certification. Enlisting in the Army, he was a transportation specialist stationed in Mannheim, Germany and was serving in Iraq with his unit. He was injured in April, receiving the Purple Heart and a second Purple Heart and a Bronze Star will be awarded posthumously. He was a member of Second Baptist Church and Old Ford Volunteer Fire Department and a certified emergency medical technician.
Survivors include his parents of Washington; a sister, Kamlyn Grey Jones, MD, of Greenwood, S.C.; a brother, Kenneth Michael Jones of Chocowinity; maternal grandmother, Eugenia “Gene” Parsons of Maysville; and paternal grandmother, Doris Jones of Washington.
Services are 11 a.m. Saturday at Second Baptist Church of Washington, conducted by Pastor Phil Hayes and Army Chaplain Grady Gentry. Burial with full military honors is in Oakdale Cemetery. Honorary pallbearers are members of Old Ford Volunteer Fire Department and Old Ford Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary.
Visitation is 6:30-8:30 tonight at the church.
The family is at the home of his parents, 116 Marsh Road.
Flowers are accepted or memorials may be made to the Fire Department or Emergency Medical Service of one’s choice.
Paul Funeral Home is in charge.
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