Just as the flag-draped casket was lifted with precision and care onto the horse-drawn caisson, we could hear the distant sound of the jet engines. Approximately a hundred mourners from Delaware and across the country, including former fellow POW’s, came to pay last respects to Colonel Murphy Neal Jones on April 26th.
As they turned their eyes northeast they saw four A-10 “Warthogs” traveling low over the Pentagon and heading towards our gathering. As the formation reached Arlington National Cemetery one of the A-10’s broke off and climbed into the sky – the “Missing Man” formation.
We have a great country due in large measure to men like Neal Jones and his fellow veterans, particularly those who never made it home.
But I have a feeling it would be an even better country if every young American had an opportunity to attend a funeral, with full military honors at Arlington.
The respect accorded Colonel Jones by a grateful nation is extraordinary to witness. Jones’ burial service, including the flyover, was my second experience at Arlington – the first was for my cousin Joseph Butler of Wilmington, who served as a Captain with the 101st Airborne in Vietnam.
For Colonel Jones you had the sense that every member of the burial detail, from the Air Force Band, to the pallbearers who folded the flag, the rifle team that fired the salute, the bugler who played taps, and the Air Force officer who handed his wife Glenda the perfectly folded flag, were saying to all present – we are here to payback Colonel Jones for the six and half years he suffered at the hands of his captors in Vietnam.
We will do all in our power to leave an impression that will last a lifetime.
Then as the airmen completed the folding of the flag, you could hear the great-granddaughter Neal Jones adored begin to cry. As the hero’s life ended, the youngest voice let us know that life goes on.
A native of Baton Rouge Louisiana, Neal Jones moved to Delaware in 2017 to be near family. Struggling with his health, including the residual effects of his years as a POW, Neal Jones made the most of his time in the First State.
Asked to speak at Veterans Day services in honor of Delaware POW James J. Connell at the Delaware Memorial Bridge in 2018, he delivered remarks that will not soon be forgotten. (https://townsquaredelaware.com/2018/11/11/vietnam-pow-lt-commander-connell-receives-states-highest-honor/) It would turn out to be his last mission.