WWII Vet keeps Army life alive through stories
Florence Morning News, S.C.
LAKE VIEW, S.C. - Some World War II veterans spend decades trying to forget the time spent serving overseas. World War II veteran Lonnie J. Jones Jr. loves to try and remember every bit he can. He served nine years with the U.S. Army Mounted Cavalry, the last three in Europe fighting from the beach of Normandy all the way to Berlin.
"I liked it (serving in the war). If I hadn't got married when I got out, I would have stayed in. Getting married ruined my Army career," Jones, 94, said with a laugh. "I was strictly an Army man. I enjoy talking and thinking about it because I was there."
Every morning as regular as the sun rises, the Lake View resident makes his daily visit to Four Points Grill, a small unassuming coffee shop at the intersection of S.C. Route 9 and 41 on the outskirts of town. He greets everyone who comes through the door with a smile. If the walls could talk, they would recite stories Jones has long forgotten about through the years over morning coffee. The seven medals of commendation and two Purple Hearts should be enough to tell anyone that Jones served his country honorably and heroically.
Storming the beach in the 14th wave at Normandy earned him his first Purple Heart. He was one of the first to be wounded by shrapnel that day as he led his men off the ship. The shrapnel has served as a souvenir in his left leg ever since.
"I got a little nervous but I had too many men behind me that I had to look after," he reflected. "I kept my fear inside me. If you go out there scared to death, the other men will be scared too."
When he was wounded, they tried to send him to the hospital but Jones refused to leave his men. "I didn't want to go to the hospital. I told them to patch me up and I was going back out there. For a while I hobbled around, but I got through it," he said.
The beach at Normandy was just the first of many battles that Jones was a part of on or near the frontlines of the allied campaign, eventually helping to liberate France. Along the way he would come to make acquaintances with one of the most influential military leaders of WWII.
Several times Jones met and talked with Gen. George S. Patton, who was known for his frontlines leadership style. Since Jones spent a lot of his tour on the frontlines, it seems realistic he and Jones would have crossed paths.
"He was a good fella. I thought the world of him and we got to know each other. If he saw me he'd call me by name," Jones said.
One night Jones, several miles from the frontline, received word that Patton was going to pay a visit. He said Patton pulled up in a Jeep but always had a tank close by he could hop into just in case of attack.
"The funny thing is that the cannon on it was made out of wood. It was just for looks," Jones said. "We talked about where the enemy was and military-type stuff. He was strictly business. It was interesting because he was at least 6 feet tall, about 240 pounds but had a fine voice like a woman."
Ann Barfield, a cook at Four Points for more than 30 years, has known Jones all her life.
"He's a character and a good person," she said of seeing Jones every morning. "After they made him, they threw the pattern away that's for sure."
Tammy Rogers drives by the coffee shop most every day, and will only bother to stop in if she see his truck is outside the coffee shop. She said a few minutes with Jones makes her day.
It's evident that people love Jones for more than just his old war stories. He said he tries to keep things happy and not let the things he's seen get to him.
"I take life as it comes. People should remember the war because it's history. I got scared a time or two, but I enjoyed it. It was pretty exciting when I think about it," he said.