Local News

World War I veteran's family accepts Purple Heart

Posted November 3, 2010 5:00 p.m. EDT
Updated November 3, 2010 6:33 p.m. EDT

— A Fayetteville veteran was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart in a ceremony Wednesday more than 90 years after he was injured in World War I.

A member of in Fayetteville's local militia, Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry Company, Sgt. Walter G. Jones, 29, was sent in 1918 to serve as a cook with the U.S. Army's 81st Infantry Division in France's gloomy Argonne Forest. In that low-tech era, soldiers like him also ran written orders between commanders.

"He was a man of character. We know this because he was entrusted with these highly sensitive documents of great importance," Fort Bragg commander Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick said.

The Fayetteville native was exposed to poison gas fired by Germans. The gas seared his lungs, and he returned home to Fayetteville a different man, often in dreadful pain.

"He was in and out of hospitals," his grandson, U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones, said.

In 1926, at age 37, Sgt. Walter G. Jones died.

He was given what was then the biggest funeral ever seen in Fayetteville and laid to rest in Cross Creek Cemetery.

A few years ago, Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-Greenville) read a newspaper article about his grandfather.

"That's what got me working to know more about my grandfather," he said.

His grandfather's valor and pain deserved a medal or plaque, some sort recognition, the congressman said. After reviewing records he presented, the military agreed that Sgt. Walter G. Jones deserved a Purple Heart Medal.

The Purple Heart was established by George Washington on Aug. 7, 1782, during the Revolutionary War. It is reserved for those who were injured in battle.

Ninety-two years after Sgt. Walter G. Jones was gassed in France, his family accepted a Purple Heart on his behalf during a ceremony at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum Fayetteville.

"I think, in the eyes of God, I've done what I can do, and I helped bring this chapter to a close," Walter B. Jones said.

The congressman said he wants his grandfather's story to inspire the nation to take better care of service members who come back wounded and traumatized from battle.

"We should never forget those who go to war. That’s my biggest concern about Afghanistan and Iraq," he said.