- Associated Press - Monday, December 22, 2014

SMYRNA, Del. (AP) - It has been some 70 years since U.S. Army Sgt. Benjamin Jones stormed a German-occupied town sprinting and shooting, through the European village as fast as he could.

On Sunday, the Smyrna veteran’s bravery was honored as the medals he earned were finally pinned to his chest.

About 50 family and close friends joined as Jones was presented the Bronze Star Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal and the Army of Occupation Medal at a family home in Smyrna.

“It really feels good,” said the 95-year-old, whose slow movements belie his quick memory. “Hooray for the Army, hooray for the United States, hooray for the Veterans Administration. They are one of the best things that has happened to me.”

Jones was born in 1919 in Millington, Maryland. He attended school through the eighth grade before working for the railroad and as a painter. He moved to Wilmington around 1940 before he was drafted.

“Getting drafted didn’t bother me a bit. I really felt that I was needed and I was glad to go, but I didn’t like leaving my family,” said Jones, who was by then a father of four.

On the battlefield, Jones said the motto was “keep up the fire.”

“And they kept bringing us bullets,” he said.

Jones vividly recalls one particular raid he said earned him his medals.

“I led an attack with about 30 or 35 men against at least 100 German soldiers. We killed 15 and captured 84 and about 30 to 40 of them got away. I shot so fast and so many shots, my rifle jammed,” Jones recalled.

With his rifle jammed and the battle raging around him, his life depended on a German Luger pistol he had confiscated from a captured German officer.

“I yanked that Luger out and shot a German looking around the corner. I shot that sucker in the head before he could get me and then another one bobbed up almost the same place. I shot him in the head with the Luger,” Jones said. “I really felt proud of myself fighting for my life with that Luger.”

For him, the fear of battle was all in the anticipation.

“The man who said he wasn’t scared was a liar,” Jones said. “I was scared before they started firing at us. After that, I didn’t give a thing about being scared. I just had a job to do and I did it.”

Upon returning home, Jones said medals were the last thing on his mind.

“At war’s end, I wasn’t the least bit interested in medals. I was interested in coming home,” Jones said.

He went on with his life, eventually working for the Pennsylvania Railroad as an engineer for more than 45 years. He said his medals didn’t even enter his mind until recent years when he saw a news report of a veteran receiving his medals decades after service. His daughters said more and more his missing medals began to weigh on Jones.

“After all the years, it didn’t bother me till about two years ago,” Jones said. “I knew I had been cheated out of the recognition I should have gotten.”

Jones said he wasn’t even aware he’d been awarded the Bronze Star in the ‘60s until last week.

This isn’t uncommon, according to retired Brig. Gen., Terry Wiley, who is Delaware’s civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army and presented Jones with his medals.

“As a young soldier, you know, (they think) ‘I did my duty. I served my country and did what was required,’” Wiley said. “But after they gain 20 or 30 years, they think about what a great country they live in and recognize the sacrifice they made. That gives them the inner pride that they don’t brag about. They just want to be recognized for it.”

In November, Jones’ daughters got involved and after some coordination with government officials the ceremony was arranged.

“Wait to you hear what the ladies at church are going to say now,” shouted one of Jones’ friends as the medals were pinned to his jacket.

“I’m very proud to get the medals … If they needed me again, I’d be glad to serve but I would be a poor excuse of a soldier now,” Jones said with a smile.

___

Information from: The News Journal of Wilmington, Del., http://www.delawareonline.com

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