"Gold Star Mother Mrs. Ida Mae Francis Black “Jones,” attends a candlelight vigil in Miami Florida, holding her only son’s picture. Spec 4 Paul Jones 173rd Airborne Brigade “Sky Soldier," a warrior of a historic infantry unit was killed May 3rd, 1969. A volunteer, his sacrifices were extraordinary. Florida Highwaymen Historic Artist AJ Brown is rooted in a long line of military, and member of a "Gold Star Family."
Soldiers and warriors of their country, AJ Brown's family has historically devoted a lifetime of service and sacrifices to a brotherhood and sisterhood of heroes. In honor of a fallen hero and for the heart of a volunteer, Specialist 4 Paul Jones, our "Gold Star family," honorably served their country, followed in his footsteps and without realizing, honored his legacy! May God bless our family and the United States of America.
One hot summer day, July 23, 2016, in Fort Pierce, Florida, my granddaughter Salsa and I visited my mother, who I grew up calling Cherry. Mother, I said, "tell us my favorite real-life story about your brother, Spec 4 Paul Jones." A history decades-old that now seemed mythical was fitting that our fourth generation heard the story from her great-grandmother.
Cherry began, my brothers Paul and Amos, sisters Jo, Ruth, and Martha, were raised by our single mother of Seminole Indian descent and great-grandmother D-eye. She was a full-blooded Indian, with hair she would sit on. My father German Jones was a young man when on his way to work one morning, he fell dead with a heart attack. He would always say, "as long as he can help it, his kids would never go hungry." Grandmother never remarried and times were tough.
We were agriculture migrant fruit and vegetable pickers, born and schooled in the roots of Tallahassee, Florida. The Tallahassee Museum of Florida’s History displays the rich heritage of the First Settlers, the Seminole Indians, a heritage rooted in our family, I added.
Food was scarce raising six children; we labored fields up and down the eastern coast of America. Squatted in old abandoned houses, our mother created makeshift furniture, she was blessed with a natural artistic gift. Living in camps, hunger was well known, as we traveled highway to highway; we had no permanent place to call home; Highwaymen in another sense of the word.
Mother’s story was my story, I now narrated to my granddaughter. In 1957, grandmother was on the move; Fort Pierce, Coconut Grove, Good-bread Alley, Over-Town Miami.
Her son, Paul Jones was born July 4, 1948. He attended Booker T. Washington and Carver High schools. After graduation, Paul enlisted with the Job Corps in California, then volunteered for the United States Army, but needed permission from his mother. Her last son, still a boy was not yet legally eighteen.
March 26, 1963, an experiment began more than 50 years ago, that would change the lives of generations of warriors, their loved ones, and our Army. It was the birth of the first and only, separate Airborne Brigade in the United States. Superior leaders at all ranks recruited and honed the skills of promising young warriors.
In the 1960s earned their nickname, "Sky-Soldiers" for Combat Parachute Assaults, established a standard of Military Excellence! Unparalleled heroism! Exceptional service and dedication to the nation, other units only hope to equal! The exploits of the Sky-Soldier Brigade, both in the Vietnam era and in the current struggle against terrorism are well known.
It wasn't until January 23, 2017, that our family rediscovered, uncle Paul was a "Sky-Soldier!" "A 173rd Airborne Brigade War Hero!" I was there! When the knock came at the door, two military men reported, while on a mission in Binh-Dinh Province, South-Vietnam, Paul Jones was killed, May 3, 1969, when his 173rd Airborne Brigade stopped for a rest period. It was said, he went for a swim and was caught in an undercurrent. Three weeks before he was to return home, still a boy he never saw twenty-one. His body was recovered but said to be unrecognizable. Urged against viewing his body, the family debated many unanswered questions.
Grandmother respectfully complied with Military closed casket wishes. She gracefully lived with the death of her only son’s uncertainties. “Sky-Soldier Paul Jones," achieved several honorable metals for Vietnam hostile combat missions. His life on the line, performed paratrooper rescues, recovered his fellow wounded American soldiers and was awarded the Bronze Star. "Paul Jones paid the Ultimate Sacrifice."
He was the best of America! His "Gold Star mother" was heartbroken. Grandmother received $15,000 for his veteran benefits, and had to make it count! At age 55 she purchased the lone family home on a corner lot, which she enjoyed, until age 79 when she died. Her daughter and granddaughter inherited the renovation. Restoration, preservation, and education of his home is the ultimate achievement.
As a Blue Star mom, the feelings of a military mom are shared. Her aches, her pains her loneliness of having a daughter serving in the United States Army, in Korea, and son who defended his country in Iraq. Our family is of a long line of military soldiers serving the Army, Air Force, and Marines.In honor of a fallen hero and for the heart of a volunteer, Specialist 4 Paul Jones, our "Gold Star family," honorably served their country, followed in his footsteps and without realizing, honored his legacy! May God bless our family and the United States of America.