“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” – John 15:13
He came to my platoon from an assignment in Korea, where they had given him numerous Article 15’s and finally sent him to Vietnam as “final punishment.” Article 15’s are serious Army punishments just short of Court Martial. Charlie had this ultra-exuberant energy which he allowed to get him into trouble.
When he came to me he had had a daughter of three out of wedlock back in Pennsylvania. He was a father already at the young age of fifteen. This has been true of some of the boys who have been with us at the PAYH.
I told Charlie he had a clean Bill of Health with me; as far as I was concerned all those Article 15’s were history forgotten. I made him the “Track Driver” of my Platoon Headquarters Track, an honor for Track Drivers.
When we were “dismounted,” that is operating without our “Tracks” as combat soldiers carrying our own individual weapons, ammunition, and food, in our back packs, he became my platoon radio-man in these “ground operations.” The enemy would always aim first to take out the one with the high antenna coming from the radio on his back, and the man immediately beside him, the Platoon Leader, me! We were primary targets for good reason. Take out the leadership and communications first!
Charlie was fearless. He was my “tunnel rat,” the one who would squirm down a narrow hand dug tunnel headfirst, when one was located, in search of the enemy and whatever was in that lethal enemy tunnel complex. A very harrowing business to say the least.
But one day he met his demise in a similar endeavor when he without caution jumped into a bunker as we were discovering an enemy base camp. I was 6 feet away with my back turned to his surprising action when he inadvertently triggered a 105 Round boobytrap (a very large artillery shell) set up purposefully by the enemy in this bunker. The resulting explosion blew me to the ground and caused life long tinnitus in my ears as a result of the explosion. Charlie was instantly killed, losing both arms and legs.
I had had the honor of leading Charlie to the Lord in the months before he died. We had many long conversations together as he was part of my small platoon headquarters group. He was a great personal loss. I loved Charlie.
Charlie is one of the millions of reasons we celebrate Memorial Day. He gave his life on the battle field as an American soldier. The freedoms we enjoy were what he gave his life to preserve.
Charlie Jones’ name is etched on the Wall, the memorial on the Mall in Washington DC honoring Vietnam soldiers who died for their country, some 50,000 of them. His name is also etched on my heart.
Jesus said in penetrating words that stick fast in our hearts, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” This is why I honor and remember Charlie and so many others on May 31st this year. I hope you will join me.
“O Cross that liftest up my head, I dare not ask to fly from thee; I lay in dust life’s glory dead, and from the ground there blossoms red life that shall endless be.”
(4th verse of George Mattheson’s hymn, “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go,” 1882)