Honoring Our Military Veterans Charlie Jones and Old Glory
BY ANNIE CRENSHAW
Charles William Jones, or Charlie, as most of us know him, is a man who enjoys flying the American flag.
“I fly Old Glory 24/7,” Charlie said. “My children gave me an automatic Dusk-to-Dawn light fixture for a birthday present years ago, and it lights the flag all night long.”
We’re sure our readers know that the American flag may be flown at night anywhere that it can be flown during the day, as long as it’s properly illuminated.
Charlie believes in his country, its flag, and the principles they represent.
“One of my favorite poems is about Old Glory,” he says.
The United States flag, popularly called “Old Glory” and “The Stars and Stripes,” is a symbol of freedom, hope and opportunity.
If you look at USA-produced calendars (ones that have “our” holidays), you’ll see that Flag Day is Monday, June 14th.
This annual holiday celebrates the history and symbolism of the American flag.
Charlie Jones can appreciate that history and symbolism.
He served his country in the military, like many Butler County men and women, and he’s proud to recite “The Pledge of Allegiance,” hand on heart.
Whether serving a short period of duty, or years of military service, in peace time as well as in war, our military forces are important to the history and continued existence of the United States of America.
The old “red, white and blue” that waves gracefully in front of U.S. post offices, businesses, and homes like Charlie Jones’ is a reminder of that importance.
And, it’s a reminder of our responsibilities to see that the flag keeps waving over “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
While still a student at Greenville High School, Charlie “joined up.” Many of his friends and fellow classmates did the same.
“I joined the Army Aviation Cadet enlisted reserve in October 1943, with the understanding that I wouldn’t be called before August 1944,” Charlie says. He had had three years of high school, and hoped to graduate before beginning his military service.
He did graduate, and went on to college.
“I got in two quarters at Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University), before I was called to report for duty on February 1, 1945,” he says. “Max Autrey and I were called at the same time.”
Other Butler County classmates who joined the military included Jim Dunklin, Billy McQueen, Van Williams, Neil Poole, Billy Calhoun, and many more.
Nearly all of the High School’s basketball and football team members were now playing for “Uncle Sam’s great team,” as a local journalist commented.
Charlie attended basic training at Keesler Army Air Field in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Keesler was the Army Air Corps’ new Technical School, specializing in aircraft mechanics training. It was renamed Keesler Air Force Base in January 1948.
In July 1945, Charlie was sent to Las Vegas, Nevada. Meanwhile, his classmate, Max Autrey, was graduating from training at Keesler in “the world’s greatest educational program,” as our local newspaper reported that month.
February 1945, when Charlie Jones was inducted into the Army Air Corps, was a tumultuous month in World War II history.
The four-day Malta Conference between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill ended with an agreement to withdraw two divisions from Greece and three from Italy to reinforce northwest Europe. They proceeded to Yalta for a conference with Joseph Stalin, where the three leaders met to discuss the reorganization of postwar Europe.
Berlin suffered its worst air raid of the war when 1,500 USAAF bombers led by Lt. Col. Robert Rosenthal dropped more than 2,000 tons of bombs on the city.
The Battle of Manila took place, ending with General Douglas MacArthur capturing Manila and liberating 5,000 prisoners.
The Battle of Iwo Jima was fought. After hostilities ceased, the famous photograph, “Raising the Flag,” was taken by Joe Rosenthal. The photo shows five U.S. Marines and a hospital corpsman raising a U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima.
The United States detonated a nuclear bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and over Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.
“I was still stationed at Las Vegas Army Air Force Base when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima,” Charlie recalls.
With the end of the war, new trainees were no longer needed. Charlie accepted a discharge from the Army Air Corps in October 1945.
He resumed his college studies at Auburn, and obtained a degree in Aeronautical Administration.
The “Auburn Plainsman” announced in its issue of November 10, 1948, that twenty-nine students at Auburn had been selected for recognition in the 1943-49 edition of “Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges.”
Two Butler County students were among those outstanding young men and women: Charles W. Jones of Greenville, a senior in Aeronautical Administration; and Fern Nix of Pigeon Creek, a senior in Home Economics.
After graduating from Auburn, Charlie worked for a marine supply company in Mobile.
He moved back to Greenville to manage Riley Lumber and Supply Company for his uncle, Fred Riley, and started his own plumbing business in Greenville soon afterwards.
Charlie married Mary Frances Rogers in 1955. She was the “girl next door” when they were growing up. They have two children, five grandchildren, and a great-grandchild.
Charlie managed a Sherman Williams Paint store in Greenville, and in 1967, began working with New York Life Insurance Company. He’s still working today, after 54 years.
Today, Charlie recalls friends who served much longer in the military than he did. He had a college roommate who was in the lead tank group in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in Korea. That friend survived, stayed in the army, and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel.
His best friend and fraternity brother, Van Williams, enlisted in the U.S Marines. Van served in China at the end of World War II, stayed on in the Reserves, and served again on the front lines in Korea.
Charlie also remembers friends who served and gave everything for their country.
“I had a fraternity brother shot down over North Korea and neither his body nor plane were ever found – so the story went,” Charlie tells us. “I pray that his body is in the group Kim Jong Un said they would return.”
Charlie still recalls every face and every voice. And, he still flies the American flag, 24/7.
“Old Glory” waves bright, brave and true over the ground where Charlie Jones walks.
Flag Day is a day to recommit ourselves to the principles symbolized by our nation’s official banner.
The American flag is recognized all over the world. It’s saluted, respected, revered and loved by those who believe in its significance; and it’s feared and disliked by those who disagree with what it represents.
Occasionally, it’s not respected, and that’s always a sad occurrence.
Help Charlie remember and honor those who served. Fly “Old Glory” at your home or business, and appreciate the red, white and blue waving in the wind. It’s a sight that our soldiers loved and were always glad to see.
They deserve your remembrances.
My late dad was an airplane mechanic and at some point a teacher and was at Keesler in 1945. His name was Art — he was tall, ornery. He was a sgt. but a corporal upon discharge. My siblings and I have been left hundreds of letters between him and his girlfriend, later wife, my mom. There is so much information in those letters including activities such as wrestling to see, the food, the rain and heat, barracks’ numbers, planes, the Gulf, names of people, movies, and some antics that were pulled. Mom traveled by train with her mother to Biloxi, and my future parents were married in Biloxi before his discharge and lived there a couple months, and mom returned home to Ohio awaiting dad’s discharge on Jan 16, 1946. As a family (years 1947- dad died in 2007), we would visit dad’s Army buddies from the years 1942-46, from acquaintances in N.C., from Scott Field in Illinois also. For the wedding at the Church of Nativity of BVM (now a cathedral), his best man’s last name was Mitchell from near Boston as indicated on the photo. I would have to reread some letters to see if he mentioned Mr. Jones.