Missing Vietnam Veteran With Local Ties Finally Buried After 41 Years

By Geena Martinez

NewsWest 9

GARDENDALE - It's a homecoming that was put off for more than four decades, but a Vietnam veteran is finally resting in peace.

The fallen soldier's brother lives in Gardendale and attended the service at Arlington National Cemetery last week.

James Jones has fond memories of his brother, John, the one he called his protector.

"He was my champion," James said. "He took care of me and my little brother and he was just the mischievous one of the family."

James was in high school when his brother, a green beret, left to serve in the Vietnam War.

"John knew that he was in for a tough job, he knew what he was doing," James said. "He was the best of the best and he was a warrior and he wanted to go to war to be a warrior."

But sadly, the 22-year-old never made it back home.

On June 4th, 1971, he and other soldiers were defending a radio relay base when they came under attack.

"Some of them got off, my brother, John Jones and John Caviani stayed behind. They couldn't get everybody off because they didn't have enough helicopters," James said.

The soldier was listed as Missing In Action for two years before a Prisoner Of War revealed Jones had been killed in combat.

James Brother never got a proper burial until now.

After four decades, the remains of Army Sgt. John Jones were finally found.

"They were able to take DNA from the cranium and match it to my DNA and my mom's DNA," James said. "It was unbelievable. You hear from the Army and you hear from people, 'we'll leave no one behind.' They meant exactly what they said, they didn't forget."

These are pictures from Jones' memorial service at the Arlington National Cemetery last week.

A team called the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command helped find John's body.

They spent years sifting through wartime records and getting eyewitness accounts from other veterans.

"They were able to find out where the fort was, where the last bunker they thought John might be in," James said.

Army Sgt. John Jones was given a proper burial with full military honors.

Now 41 years later, he's back on U.S. soil where he belongs.

"It was absolutely amazing," James said. "They honored my brother so well and did just a great job. John's home."

Sgt. Jones was a decorated veteran.

He was awarded two bronze stars and a silver star.

Since 1973, more than 900 serviceman have been accounted for from the Vietnam War and returned to their families for burial.