Reverend James Jones is well loved for his preaching at Good Shepherd Nursing Home in Wheeling, but before he was a preacher he served in the U.S. Army.
He enlisted in 1955, shortly after the Korean War.
That enlistment took him, and his high school sweetheart Verda across the world.
“I had a boy that was a good friend that was in Korea and wounded,” Jones said of his reasons for joining the U.S. Army. “We just felt that we were standing with him when we several of us joined the military.”
Enlisting sent Jones from his home in Marshall County, to train in South Carolina and Missouri. Eventually, he was stationed across the world.
” It was really a a expansion of our lives to go from Benwood and McMechen to Frankfurt, Germany,” Jones continued.
While stationed overseas, Jones worked as a supply sergeant on a base in Hanau.
“Everything that was on an Army base had a number and there was pluses or minuses on them,” he explained. “You took charge of keeping the records of where you needed to order and keeping everybody up to snuff.”
Jones recalled life on base was organized, but it was peacetime and he never saw combat. However, that didn’t stop his commanding officers from keeping the men trained for the worst.
Jones remembered he and his fellow soldiers were put on alert when Russia invaded Hungary on the German border.
“We were very close to that,” he said. “We didn’t know if Russia would not only take over Hungary, which they had been occupying for some time, but they might try to come across the border in Germany try to establish some foot hold.”
After living in Germany for more than a year, he and Verda came back home.
“The whole company rotated back. We came across the North Sea on a troop ship, including our wives,” Jones said.
He was discharged in 1957.
“I’m very proud,” Jones said of his two-years of service. “I’m very glad I did it. It was a growing up experience for me also. I found out that the world didn’t turn around at Jimmy Jones.”)
Jones looks back on his service fondly, but never forgets those who came before him.
“I owe so much to the ones that battled and gave that last full measure of devotion,” he added. “I still choke when I see the flag going by and graves. If I hear taps my eyes water. It just gets to me yet so it’s something I guess that you carry your entire life.”
Jones eventually became a pastor, when he was in his 30s, and has been preaching ever since.
Even though he’s retired now at 85, that still doesn’t stop him from ministering to those at Good Shepherd.
Jones and Verda have three children, six grandchildren and will soon be great-grandparents.
They’ll celebrate 64 years of marriage a little later this July.