This story is from the Sunday, September 11, 2005 issue of the Daily Oklahoman Newspaper in Oklahoma City. It can be accessed (for a fee) at the Daily Oklahoman website/archive. The story included a photograph of James and Eddie Wright presenting a Marine Corps flag to Arthur Jones in Jones’ hospital room.
Marine of WWII fights final battle
Del City – Trapped in the hollow wreckage of his fading body, Arthur Jones clung to life, fighting back the lung cancer he knows will destroy him and silently straining to survive until Saturday.
He made it.
Jones, 85, was a hero long before his body turned traitor, long before the doctors decreed the tumors had spread throughout his organs and spine, long before his bones began jutting through his flesh as if eager to escape.
During World War II, Jones – then a sergeant in the 4th Marine Regiment – fought for his country on the Pacific front, eventually facing capture when his regiment surrendered in the Philippines.
“When they surrendered on Corregidor, his commanding officer gave him the regimental plaque and told him to hold onto it until they ended the war,” said Jones’ wife Dorothy Jones. “He held onto it that entire time.”
For years he kept the plaque and survived as a Japanese prisoner of war, slaving in coal or copper mines and enduring hellish abuse at the hands of his captors.
“He suffered from beriberi and malnutrition,” said Dr. James Wright, who once treated Jones. “He almost died several times. He had one of his back bones broken by a Japanese guard with a pickax.”
Now, as Jones nears the end of the battle he cannot win, Wright and his family, among others, are honoring Jones for the battles he refused to lose.
“He’s a great old guy,” Wright said. “We should honor him and not forget him.”
That’s why Wright’s son, a hero in his own right, flew to Oklahoma from Quantico, Virginia, to pay Jones a last visit Saturday – a visit Jones said he kept himself alive for.
Marine Sergeant Eddie Wright, 29, already boasts a string of awards, among them a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. He teaches martial arts at the marine base at Quantico and received national attention after a photographer for the Associated Press snapped him saluting President Reagan’s casket.
The photograph stood out because Eddie Wright was saluting with an arm that had no hand.
Like Jones, Eddie Wright sacrificed much to serve his country. In April 2004, the young Marine nearly died in an ambush in Fallujah, Iraq. A rocket-propelled grenade struck the weapon he was firing, leaving him with no hands and a badly wounded leg.
But, he and Jones have a bond even deeper than shared sacrifice.
If not for Jones, Eddie Wright would probably not have become a Marine.
“I had got into some trouble when I was younger,” Eddie Wright said. “I really needed a recommendation si I could get a waiver and be allowed to enlist in the Marines. Arthur gave me the recommendation and I figured it really carried some weight because of who he is and everything he’s done.”
Saturday the young Marine came to say a final ”thank you”.
I wouldn’t have had a chance if you hadn’t helped me out,” Eddie Wright told Jones.
“Well, you’re a good man,” Jones replied. “You’re a good man. A good Marine” He closed his hand around his friend’s prosthesis. “Semper fi.”
Eddie Wright gazed down at the dying man, one hero to another, and in one haunting moment it seemed as if a burden shifted, a torch passed from old to young. “Semper fi,” he said.
This story took a long time to get copied from the newspaper. That is not because it was unimportant. It was sort of like the day the oldest tadpole graduated from Airborne Training and I got to nail his wings on him. I could get about 3 sentences typed. Some dust or something would fly into my eye. And then I’d have to stop and blow my nose.
Peace and all good,