Interview with Frank Jones, US Army
Name: Frank Jones
Military Branch & Rank: US Army, Sergeant
Dates of Service: August 2001 – August 2005
Date of Interview: June 20, 2019
Interviewer: Michael D. Brown
Audio Producer: Laura Bang
Length of Interview: 38 minutes
Transcribed by: Nicholas Coscarelli
Edited and annotated by: Meg Piorko
MICHAEL BROWN (INTRO): Thank you for joining us today. My name is Michael Brown, and we are here today at Villanova University recording another installment of the Voices of Villanova’s Veterans.
BROWN: Welcome to our next edition of Voices of Villanova’s Veterans. My name is Mike Brown. I am the Director of Veterans and Military Service Members here at Villanova University and we are up here in Falvey Library in the Rare Book Room. And today I am joined by Frank Jones who is a current student here at Villanova University and is also an Army Veteran. So welcome Frank and it’s great to have you here today.
FRANK JONES: Thank you.
BROWN: So, if you want to start, please tell me when you were born and where you were born, and we’ll start from there.
JONES: I was born October 28th, 1982, in Coatesville, Pennsylvania.
BROWN: And were you an only child? Do you have a lot of brothers and sisters?
JONES: I actually have 17 siblings.
BROWN: 17 siblings.
JONES: That is correct.
BROWN: Wow. So, do you know all of their names?
JONES: I do but I need to pull my hand out and count to make sure I don’t forget someone when I try to go through it.
BROWN: So, what is it like growing up with 17 siblings?
JONES: It was different. It was definitely a great experience. There was never a lack of companionship or friendship, so I enjoyed it.
BROWN: I’m sure there was no lack of dull moments either.
JONES: That is correct.
BROWN: Your excitement was probably off the charts. So, what is the age variance of those 17?
JONES: The age variance, I want to say my youngest sister is 15 and my oldest sister is 55.
BROWN: And how many boys and how many girls?
JONES: There are four boys and the rest are girls.
BROWN: Wow. That is fascinating. Was there like a skirmish every day at breakfast to see who got to eat? You know what I mean?
JONES: Not really, due to the age difference. So, you had some who were older, some who were younger. When I was younger there weren’t as many. So, more were produced in that period of time than those issues.
BROWN: Sure. That is fascinating. All right. So, you’re born in Coatesville, Pennsylvania and you’re one of 17, which is, again, this is fascinating. What’s your childhood like? Did you go to what school did you go to?
JONES: My childhood I want to say was great. I went to Rainbow Elementary School and South Brandywine Middle School. My family were actors. So, they started the Coatesville Cultural Society, which was a non-profit theater in the city I grew up in. So, they would perform for the assemblies at the schools and things of that nature. So, it was definitely a good time.
BROWN: And did you learn that trade as well or were you sort of a spectator?
JONES: I did not. I mostly spectated. Hence, I’m currently in the accounting profession, which is more of a lean back and out of the sight role.
BROWN: Well, that’s great. And were any of your siblings? Did they take up that trade?
JONES: I want to say about half of my siblings did. And they’re still currently going that route.
BROWN: Okay, that’s great. What high school did you attend?
JONES: Well, I attended Coatesville Area High School, but I actually dropped out of school in ninth grade. So, I attended maybe ten days of my ninth-grade year. And that was the extent of my schooling.
BROWN: And, which will bring us up to you today, eventually we’ll get there. So, you drop out of school and what do you start doing?
JONES: Working full time.
BROWN: Doing what?
JONES: At that point, I think it was Ames department store. I was doing stock work there, as well as Ross department store doing stock. I worked in a couple of factories doing line work and just was busy working.
BROWN: And at that point, your decision-making is, “I want to earn money” and “I don’t like school,” or what was the reasoning behind dropping out?
JONES: The reasoning was due to as many siblings as I had, I kind of grew up in poverty almost. And so, for me, I held a value on money.
JONES: So, not having these things that everyone else had, I felt that I needed to obtain those things. And my route to take was to work.
BROWN: Sure. So, you’re working, earning some money, and then able to buy things on your own?
JONES: That is correct.
BROWN: So, become self-sufficient.
BROWN: Which was valuable. And eventually it leads up to, at some point, saying, “I’m going to join the military.” And when was that choice made and what was the process for doing so?
JONES: That choice was made for my first eight years of schooling. I was in all honors classes. I was a straight-A student. And I was starting to think of the future. And I saw myself working in these jobs and almost being stuck at not being able to advance. The military was an option for me to obtain the GI Bill and hopefully then go to school and further my career and better my future.
BROWN: Sure. Why the Army instead of the Navy or the Marine Corps or the Air Force?
JONES: I could ask myself the same question. When I went into the recruiting office, which was in Westchester, they had all four recruiting offices right next to each other. The Army office was the first one. And I feel at that time, at least for me, that was the most prevalent word that you heard. Their advertisements, per se, were larger. So, it had the bigger influence on what I chose.
BROWN: Sure. So, you’re looking for someone to change out your water heater? The first one you saw was the Army. And so, you get, what is your, you have a family history of joining the service? Are there family members?
JONES: There aren’t. My sister is currently in the Army, based off of me going. But prior to that, there was no history.
BROWN: So, there wasn’t someone saying, you know, “you need to join the military?” This is all you and yourself. That’s, I think that’s fantastic.
JONES: Correct. Yes. There was no history at all. It really wasn’t an option in people’s minds. And I just took the leap and gave it a chance.
BROWN: Okay. And so, you’re joining and what are you hoping to do in the Army? Do you want to be a grunt? Are you hoping to be an intelligence officer? What are your thoughts?
JONES: I definitely didn’t want to be a grunt. I knew I was against infantry. Personally, for me, that didn’t seem like a good fit. But I didn’t have a specific job in mind. So, I went in, took the ASVAB and just waited to see what was presented to me. And then I would choose at that point.
BROWN: And how’d you do on the ASVAB?
JONES: I don’t remember my exact score, but I know I did well. So being a grunt wasn’t an option listed for me unless I actually wanted to pursue that.
BROWN: Sure. Which is great. You dropped out of school, and you still did well in the ASVAB. That’s, you know, getting a speaks to your level of intuition. So that’s fantastic to hear. So, what do you get assigned as your MOS?
JONES: My MOS originally was 31 Romeo, which is a multi-channel transmission communication operator maintainer.
JONES: They’ve been transferred to 25 Quebec, which I believe is now. And it, I want to say primarily I was maybe a mobile communication system. So, a mobile Verizon or Comcast, we would set up communications in the areas where there were none.
BROWN: Okay. And what year was this when you join the United States Army?
JONES: I joined the United States Army in August of 2001. So about two weeks before 9/11.
BROWN: Wow. So, you are the head of the curve.
JONES: Correct. I guess you could say that.
BROWN: And so, you’re off to basic training. Do you have a delayed entry program or are you just getting right into the—
JONES: So, I had a delayed entry program. So, I want to say I guess my official start date was in July of 2001, but I left for basic training August 20th, I believe was the date.
BROWN: Okay. And where are you headed to basic training?
JONES: I did basic training in Fort Benning, Georgia.
BROWN: Which is interesting being not that you’re that you’re not a grunt. As usual that’s where the infantry goes. What is basic training like for you as an adjustment? Are you like fitting in and following, “oh, this is the best thing I’ve ever done.” Or are you kind of like, “Wow, this is, this is a huge adjustment.”
JONES: I don’t think I would have said the best thing I’ve ever done. It definitely was a large adjustment, just getting used to the way you were spoken to. At that time, I was in an all-male basic training. So, they didn’t mix, at least at Fort Benning. So, it was just a very large adjustment to deal with that.
BROWN: What were some of your bigger adjustments that you felt like you had to do?
JONES: So, one of the biggest adjustments is growing up, my hair was past my butt in length. So, having to cut that was a large change for me, as well as just being away from family and friends. As I said, I grew up in a large family. So, you had this community feeling and I’m going in with 300 people I don’t know about from all areas of the world. So, it was just different.
BROWN: Right. When’s the last time you were before joining the army? When was the last time you had your haircut?
JONES: I want to say I was maybe nine or ten. So, it was growing for about ten years and –
BROWN: Ten years of hair growth cut off in about 10 minutes.
JONES: That is correct.
BROWN: Interesting. And so, you’re, you know, when you think about basic looking back, what do you think you learned the most from basic training?
JONES: Basic training, I probably learned just to push through, and everything will be alright. No matter how hard a situation is, you just have to continue to push through and you’ll be able to accomplish it.
BROWN: What was your platoon? Did it suffer a lot of dropouts? Or did it started at 40 and ended with 40?
JONES: There were a few dropouts but not that many. I want to say more for me at least dropped out in AIT, the training aspect but basic. There were maybe two or three.
BROWN: Okay. And where do you go to AIT? Is it still at Benning or are you going somewhere else?
JONES: No. So, it would have been infantry if I were at Benning. I went to Fort Gordon, Georgia, which is the communications home. So, signal towers and they had all the signal AIT.
BROWN: Sure. How long is your AIT?
JONES: My AIT was 16 weeks.
BROWN: And why are people dropping out? You said that.
JONES: At that point, I feel like you received some more freedom. So, with that freedom came missing family, came regret on the decision of joining the military, because you could actually leave the post at some point and get back into civilian life. And some just had the draw to go back home.
BROWN: Sure. Do you think fear of the impending war had anything to do with it?
JONES: I’m sure that definitely had a large impact. As I said, so in boot camp, we found out it happened and we all thought it was a joke, a training exercise almost. So, when the reality of it hit, a lot of people were scared that they were going to go to war and decided to leave.
BROWN: Right. Because up until that point, there hadn’t been a lot of, you know, as you’re joining during a peace time and all of a sudden, the impending war is coming up. AIT is 16 weeks long. What did you learn that you did it exceed your expectations? Do you did you learn a lot? Do you walk away from AIT saying, “I’m glad I did this?”
JONES: I don’t want to say it exceeded my expectations. I personally feel I was not told a lie, but my job was boosted and created into something. It actually wasn’t through the recruiter. I was told it was almost a computer programming program when, in reality, it was patch panels and putting up antenna dishes. So, I want to say that’s pretty much –
BROWN: The recruiter did their job. [laughs]
JONES: That is correct.
BROWN: So, what happens after Fort Gordon? You’re actually now in the real army. Where’s your first duty station?
JONES: My first duty station was Camp Carroll Korea.
BROWN: Camp Carroll Korea? What – talk to me about Camp Carroll Korea.
JONES: Camp Carroll Korea was in a city Waegwan, which was outside of a larger metropolitan area, Daegu in South Korea, and I was in a signal battalion in a different country.
BROWN: Had you ever been to Korea before?
JONES: I had never been out of the country, so that was my first time experiencing that.
BROWN: And so, when you join the army, you’re talking about the big change of getting a haircut, and getting yelled at, and getting talked to a certain way, and now you’re in a different country for your first time. So, what are some of the big adjustments?
JONES: I want to say the biggest adjustments were the language barrier, the cultural differences, and things of that nature. So, just being in a foreign place where no one speaks your language, and you are the outsider. Whereas in America, you would look at other people and they would be the foreigners. You now were that foreigner.
BROWN: Did you find that it was a good experience for you to have to be on the flip side of that?
JONES: I definitely think that since then, I travel often and go to different countries, and it just gives me a broader aspect or a broader look on humanity per se and just the differences that we all share.
BROWN: That’s good. What about food? If you’re going out in Philadelphia, are you looking for a Korean restaurant, or are you staying away?
JONES: Not really. That just wasn’t my taste. In Korea, on the army bases, they have Burger King, Pizza Hut. The fact still has normal food.
BROWN: So, you’re frequenting those spots. You’re not going downtown to get some.
JONES: Well, we would go downtown, and I experienced it and tried it, but it wasn’t a favorite of mine. So, I wouldn’t go out looking for it as well as I was younger. So, I feel like trying new things wasn’t as big on my priority list.
BROWN: Sure. So, for some of those listeners that have never served and maybe never served in Korea, talk to me about army life in Korea. What does your day to day look like?
JONES: Day to day varied. There was a period of time when you would have a 30-day training exercise. So, you would go into the mountains, and we would set up a network as if we were in war and you would just sleep in tents and go about that. There was a curfew in place. So, you weren’t allowed outside of a base past midnight, which was definitely something that you had to adjust to. For me as well, I joined right before my 19th birthday. So, I turned 20 in Korea, which was the drinking age legally. So, I was able to experience that. I feel like most bases had almost a nightclub atmosphere directly outside of the base to influence GIs to spend. For most who joined, they received bonuses. They would go and get their bonus when they were in Korea and spend it all in the bars. So, it was just a different experience. You worked hard. You played hard.
BROWN: Sure. And did you find yourself doing some of that as well? Working hard and playing hard?
JONES: I found myself in the group of friends that I established. We more so traveled Korea. So, we would hop on the train and go to Busan, which was at the very South or we would go to Seoul, and we would try to do things at least in the continent, or not continent, but country. I wish I had gone to other countries in that area while I was there. But at that point, that wasn’t an option in my mind. So, we just traveled north to South in South Korea.
BROWN: With the war going on, you know, and at this point, do you think, do you feel that you have heard rumors about you’re about to go to war? What’s going on with that?
JONES: Yes, at that point, there were already troops on the ground, and everything was ramping up. When I was supposed to leave Korea, a stop loss was in effect. So, I wasn’t allowed to leave. So, that definitely affected me.
BROWN: How long did you stay in Korea?
JONES: I was in Korea for 16 months when it was supposed to be 12. So, extra four months was large at that time.
BROWN: Yeah, absolutely. But you don’t go to Iraq or do you go to Iraq? What’s –
JONES: Not from Korea? So, I do go to Iraq, but not while I’m in Korea. So, they didn’t take troops out of Korea because I guess it could be an impending war to one to take those troops.
BROWN: So yes, that’s what I was getting. So, where’s your next duty station? Where are you going to next?
JONES: My next duty station, I go back to Fort Gordon, Georgia, except this time I’m no longer in AIT, I’m permanent party. So, you’re on a different part of the base that’s separated from.
BROWN: And what year is this?
JONES: This is in 2003.
BROWN: Okay. And are you then preparing to go to war once you get there?
JONES: That is correct. So, when I get to Fort Gordon, Georgia, the one battalion is already in Iraq, and it’s a rotating group. So, one battalion goes and then the other goes when they leave and you transition. So, the battalion I got in was prepping to go once I got there.
BROWN: And what does prepping for war look like?
JONES: Prepping for war is tedious. It’s a lot of inventory checking, maintenance checking, just making sure everything’s good to go prior to departing.
BROWN: And do you have orders yet to go off to Iraq?
JONES: I didn’t receive orders once I got there. I want to say maybe a month or two later, the orders came down. It was speculation, and everyone knew what was coming, but you didn’t have official orders yet.
BROWN: And so you get these orders and what’s in your brain? Are you excited to go to Iraq? Are you saying, “Oh my God, what am I? What did I get myself into?” You know, talk to me about what you’re feeling at that point.
JONES: At that point, I want to say maybe a month after my stop loss in Korea, I found out someone was pregnant with my child. So, my son was about to be born, which was a drawback for me. He was born December 10, 2003. And we left, I want to say roughly January 2, 2004. So, me just knowing I was about to have a child and going to war was a little.
BROWN: Yeah, I can imagine for both. Yeah, for not just you, but I’m sure the mom as well. So, where you’re going off to Iraq, talk to me about the process of that. Do you get on a plane and land in Baghdad on the other side and just start doing things? Or is it – what does that process look like?
JONES: For me, I know the process is different from other people. We actually flew into Kuwait. So, we took a commercial airliner that was nothing but military on the plane. We didn’t fly C-130 or anything overseas. And then we convoyed from Kuwait into Iraq.
BROWN: And when you arrive in Kuwait, again, what I’m, I think the thematic thing here is there’s a lot of adjustments going on. So, you’re arriving in Kuwait and getting ready to go to Iraq. What are some of the adjustments immediately that you feel and need to do? Is it weather? Is it climate? Is it the alertness that you’re on? Because you’re not training anymore. You’re actually in a war zone.
JONES: Correct. I want to say we all thought the climate was going to be extremely hot, extremely dry. And when we arrived, I guess it was rainy season. So, it actually was cold. All the sand was mud. We were in like a tent city, and it’s just mud everywhere. At that point, you’re always on the alert. So, you have your weapon with you at all times. And it just was a different experience per se from everyday life.
BROWN: And what is your mission once you get to Baghdad? What unit are you assigned with?
JONES: So, we did not go to Baghdad. We went to Camp Cedar in Iraq. And our mission was to maintain the network. So, a network was created prior to us getting there. And we just had to keep up secure communications and secure email for everyone within.
BROWN: And where is Camp Cedar?
JONES: Camp Cedar was near Talil Air Force Base. And I want to say Nasiriyah, Iraq, it was near Abraham’s tomb. So, there was, I guess, a lot of traffic in that area based off that.
BROWN: And what is your – is it still rainy season once you get to Camp Cedar?
JONES: It’s still rainy season when we first get there. And eventually, the heat does come and everything dries up and the rain stops completely.
BROWN: And what are some of the issues in dealing with the climate?
JONES: It just was an adjustment. You had to stay fully clothed at all times. So, you would think that if it’s hot, you would want less layers, but actually longer layers covered you from the sun, which was beneficial with the heat came the bugs. So, there were swarms of gnats that you just had to adjust to. You could only swat but so many times. And just going from there.
BROWN: And what about hydration and food as a, you know, when you’re dealing with all this heat?
JONES: So, hydration, there were, I want to say barrels and barrels of water. There were crates filled with water bottles. So, they definitely enforced hydration. They gave you camel backs, which you stayed full and you just drank a lot of water. They still had defects. You had MREs for certain times. So, there were never any issues in regards to that.
BROWN: What does your meal look like? Are you eating an MRE one today? Never? Every now and again?
JONES: I want to say every now and again, it all depended on what mission you were on. It depended on where you were located at the time. So, if you were on base at that time, then you would go to the defect, which they had normal food. But if not, then you always had MREs available.
BROWN: And you said your mission was, you know, not establishing but maintaining the network. So, talk to me about what that means. Is that mean you’re going out, you know, outside the wire every day and doing maintenance check? Does that mean you’re just staying in a tent on base and just making sure that it’s still functional?
JONES: So, we did a little bit of both. I want to say we’d serve different missions almost. So, we would assist in convoys as well as maintaining. So, the maintaining aspect, we would set up the satellite dishes and they would have a Humvee with a shelter attached to the back and the maintenance would be there. So, if at any point any of the communications went down, you then would in turn have to figure out what was wrong and corrected. There weren’t really wires at this point. That’s probably a little before my time. We were dealing with satellite dishes, but that’s the extent of that.
BROWN: Sure. And talk to me about the Iraqis. Are they happy at this point that you’re there? Are they, you know, actively trying to get you out of there? This is in the early stages of the war. So, what’s what is the population?
JONES: So, on base, there weren’t Iraqis that were contracted out to other countries in a month on shore of their nationalities, but they weren’t Iraqis. Outside, you saw a lot of, I want to say pain and damage. So, you would see the areas destroyed. You would see people with missing limbs or dead people on the road and things of that nature. So, I didn’t really get a grasp of enjoyment or happiness for us being there. There was more so a resentment as “you are in my country.”
BROWN: And what are your thoughts on that? Are you happy? Are you excited that you’re there doing something? Are you starting to question, “Why we are in this country doing this?”
JONES: I want to say I was a little indifferent. I know there were a lot of people who questioned why we were doing this. My biggest, I guess, drawback was, as I said, I just had a child. So, trying to deal with that aspect of, I just had a kid and I’m stuck in a location where you don’t have the choice to leave. So, you can’t say, “You know what, this isn’t for me. I’m going to go home.” You’re almost, a lot of us compared it to one would say incarceration, because you can’t leave and you have to follow orders. So, you’re not in a cell, but you’re locked in an environment where you do what you’re told, and you just hope you make it home.
BROWN: How was communication like with back home? You have 17 siblings, you have a family, you have a child. Were you able to communicate on a frequent basis? Did you have to write letters?
JONES: I want to say letters. You definitely would write letters. They had MWR tents: Morale and Welfare, where they would, you could perhaps email. You could use the phone for a certain period of time because there would be a long line of individuals waiting to use the phone. So, I want to say weekly, you were definitely able to communicate with back home.
BROWN: And did that help increase your morale or did that make it so you just wanted to get home?
JONES: It almost made you want to get home faster. If any issues were to arise, you weren’t able to deal with them. So, that would be a drawback. If it was a good time back home, then it could definitely boost your morale. But if anything was wrong, there’s nothing you could really do about it other than think about it.
BROWN: Right, right, which I’m sure didn’t help the morale of going out. Did, you know, while you’re there, were you ever in direct combat? Did you ever see any of that? Were you or was that some happening to other units and just not around you at the time?
JONES: We received mortar fire a couple of times on convoys. There would be rare bullets that came towards us, but I’ve never was in direct combat being a non-combat LMS. So, I didn’t have to go into any war zone actually per se.
BROWN: Yes. Were other units you were assigned with at the camp? Were they experiencing combat?
JONES: Yes, they definitely were, as well as anyone who was convoying through the country would stop. So, you would have people coming through who just left Baghdad, and just left an area where they were under fire. People died and they would then come into your camp, and you would talk to them and hear their experiences and see.
BROWN: And what was that like hearing those experiences?
JONES: I want to say it was probably scary because you didn’t know at any given moment it could happen to you. Your camp could come under attack. So, it was definitely eye-opening that were in this foreign place and things are actually happening that could kill you.
BROWN: Fortunately, it didn’t for you. You’re here today. So that’s good news. And how long were you there?
JONES: We were there for 13 months. So, we went at the beginning of 2004 and we got back the end of January in 2005.
BROWN: What’s the hottest day that you experienced?
JONES: I’m unsure. I don’t know the exact degrees.
BROWN: 120, 130, somewhere in there?
JONES: If I knew I’d tell you, but I actually don’t.
BROWN: Hotter than it’s been here in the States.
JONES: That is correct. Yes.
BROWN: And so now you’re about to get back. You’re going back to Fort Gordon?
JONES: That is correct. Yes.
BROWN: And what is that process like? So, you process on the front end of it is you’re doing maintenance checks. You’re doing inventory checks. You’re probably doing some training. Now you’re getting out going back home. What does that process look like?
JONES: At that point I want to say the process was the same. You were going back through maintenance checks. You were making sure you received everything. They started to implement some training because they realized that soldiers were coming back with issues. So, they were trying to almost deprogram you from being in a war zone.
BROWN: What is it? What do you mean by that?
JONES: PTSD, things of that nature. So, you would sit in I guess group classrooms and they would try to explain to you that if you have issues talk to us and almost, at this point I think they were trying a preventative measure for what I feel has happened to a lot of people and they were trying to almost cover themselves and help at the beginning.
BROWN: Okay. And are you then convoying back to Kuwait to fly back home?
JONES: That is correct. So, I actually – the classes and all of those issues happened when you got back home to Fort Ford. So, in Iraq what we would do is we cleaned all the equipment. We went back to Kuwait and actually my unit went back to Kuwait, I want to say, three to four months earlier. So, we left Iraq and then we were in Kuwait for about three to four months. And at that point, we assisted with convoys of people going back home. So, we would ride in our hummers with the guns on the turns and escort buses from Kuwait back to the airport. So, we watched a lot of people leave while we stayed.
BROWN: Was the communication back home a little easier when you’re in Kuwait for those three months or was it the same every now and again?
JONES: Yes. Now it was definitely much easier. Kuwait was at that point of built-up area. So, you were no longer in a tent. You were in a let’s say an industrial building. You still slept in cots but it there was electric widely available.
BROWN: Air conditioning?
JONES: Air conditioning. So, it was a different experience in Kuwait versus Iraq.
BROWN: And you fly back, are you back on a Delta Airlines or whatever?
JONES: Correct, they charter the Delta Airlines and you just all load up and fly back.
BROWN: Fly back to fort. How long is that flight?
JONES: I don’t remember. I know it’s not short.
BROWN: [laughs] It’s not Philly to Trenton.
JONES: No, it definitely is not.
BROWN: So, you’re back at Fort Gordon. How much time have you been in the Army? This is what, February of 2005 or something?
JONES: Correct. So, I get back to Fort Gordon at that point. I’m mentally preparing myself for getting out of the military. While I was in Kuwait, I went to a couple of boards, and I was lucky enough that I became Soldier of the Year in Kuwait. So, they actually had sent me home for two weeks to attend a competition at Fort Gordon. So, I got to leave for that period of time and then went back to Iraq. But at that point, I decided it was time for me to get out.
BROWN: So, there’s no re-enlistment in your future?
JONES: That is correct. And I want to say that was primarily due to them sending me home. It’s almost a double-edge sword. They sent me home over other people who hadn’t been home yet because I was doing well in these boards, and I just couldn’t see how that actually worked out. I wasn’t against it. I wanted to go home, but for someone to be bumped off of a flight who hadn’t been home to see their family so I could go to a board just didn’t seem right.
BROWN: Yeah, yeah. So, you’re going home and while you’re home for those two weeks did you get to see your child?
JONES: Correct. Yes I got to see—
BROWN: So, that’s probably pushing you to get out of the military as well.
JONES: Correct. Yes.
BROWN: So, how much time left do you get back to Fort Gordon? Do you have a year left in the army? You have six months?
JONES: So, we get back as you said at the end of January, and I signed a four-year contract. So, I had until August 20th to 2005. So about seven months until I got it.
BROWN: And so, you’re just doing what you need to do and preparing to get out. So, what brought you back to this area? What’s –
JONES: Well, as I said, I have a large family so my family was in this area and that’s where home was and still is. So, I came back to family.
BROWN: Are you still able to see your child?
JONES: I am. Actually, my child has lived with me his whole life. So, I’ve raised him. So, me and him came back.
BROWN: That’s great.
JONES: So, I’m gonna say that might have been another tool is having a child and being a single father. It was a great support system for me to have. As I said, I have a lot of sisters.
BROWN: So, that child has a lot of uncles and aunts. [laughs]
JONES: That is correct.
BROWN: A lot of babysitters if you will.
BROWN: That’s a that’s a good thing. So, there’s a reason for Coatesville. Now, you know, when you join the army, you’re talking about the use of GI Bill and able to. So, you know, talk to me a little bit about that. Where do you start out? Are you just getting back into the workforce? Are you exploring school options?
JONES: So, as I said, I get out August 20, 2005, and within a week I’m enrolled and I start going to school at Delaware County Community College.
BROWN: And what was that experience like for you?
JONES: It was a different experience going from the military to school. I definitely didn’t struggle in school, based off of, I guess it might be surprising, but just based off of my intellect. It wasn’t a difficult transition school wise. It was just more so being in the civilian world and—
BROWN: Yeah, absolutely. So, in that transition, were there a lot of veterans there at the time that were, or did you find yourself fitting in with those, or were you as a lone wolf?
JONES: I want to say I was more so a lone wolf. There weren’t a lot of veterans, and I was four years older than everyone. So, I almost was the older person in all of my classes due to being in the military for that first period.
BROWN: And did you get your associate degree there?
JONES: I didn’t actually get my associate degree. I think I got about 63 credit hours and just didn’t apply for the associate degree because I knew I was transferring to get my bachelor’s degree.
BROWN: And where did you transfer to?
JONES: I transferred to Westchester University.
BROWN: And what was your degree you’re seeking in at Westchester?
JONES: My degree was bachelors in accounting.
BROWN: Okay. And now you’re at Westchester. Talk to me about the differences between those two institutions. And I mean that with the transition. Now you’ve had some schooling so, going to Westchester is probably not as different, but it’s now a four-year institution. So, it’s a little bit different.
JONES: I want to say the biggest difference for me versus community college in Westchester was the class structure. So, Westchester was more so of a campus where there were a lot of satellite campuses for community college. So, in community college you would have local people in all of the classes, and Westchester it was people from all over Pennsylvania, all over the United States in each class and it was a different structure.
BROWN: Sure. Did you like that more?
JONES: I was indifferent. It really didn’t make a difference. I’m more focused on getting the degree so whatever way they applied it to me I would say.
BROWN: All right. And you’re using your GI Bill the whole time?
JONES: That is correct. And unfortunately for me, at that point, it was the Montgomery GI Bill. So, I actually was taking out student loans and things like that to pay for school so.
BROWN: Right. And now you’re fortunate enough to use the other GI Bill.
JONES: That is correct. The other GI Bill started once I graduated college so it was a little rough that it played out that way. [laughs]
BROWN: [laughs] And now, you know, what was your choice or what was your decision-making in choosing Villanova over whatever schools you were considering?
JONES: So, I actually applied to Jefferson University for their masters of taxation program and I had been accepted, and then Villanova, I noticed they had one and for me, living in Downingtown, Villanova is closer than Philadelphia. So, I applied for this as well, and was accepted, and moved forward.
BROWN: And talk to me about being a Villanova. Do you like it? Is it a good experience? Do you feel like you’re the graduate world is wildly different from the undergraduate world?
JONES: I definitely feel it’s different. It’s a great experience. It’s more, I want to say, professionals in the graduate program versus your undergrad, you’re dealing with people fresh out of high school and they have a different mentality about life and about while they’re in school. So, for me I feel anyone in the graduate tax program that I’ve ran into here is trying to advance their career. They’re not just doing the next step after high school, which nowadays is where you go to college and just continue on.
BROWN: And what do you hope to do with this degree?
JONES: I just hope to further my career, and make myself more marketable, and have more experience and no more in the world of tax.
BROWN: And how old is your boy?
JONES: He’s 15.
BROWN: He’s 15?
JONES: That is correct.
BROWN: Well, that’s, and what is what is he doing? Is he playing sports? Is he what’s he like?
JONES: He plays in a couple of basketball leagues, and he’s just finished ninth grade, so he’s getting ready going to tenth grade in this upcoming fall.
BROWN: Oh, that’s great news. Well, I think, you know, that about wraps up our interview, but I wanted to say you know when I listen to your story I think, you know, having 17 siblings is you know something that’s new for us in this. But I think what it did for you really provided that feeling of home. And I think I heard that throughout the, you know, you knew you’re coming back to the Coatesville area to be with that family and that. So, the family means a lot to you is what I heard you’re saying.
BROWN: And I heard that you have dealt with and handled the challenges of transition very well. You dropped out of high school; you were still able to do very well with the ASVAB test and succeed in the army. You went to Korea, you went to Iraq, you get out of you know the military. At some point, I’m assuming, you’re wanting to get a degree and you jump right into college right after. You didn’t you know wait around; you didn’t mow lawns for a year. And now you’re at a prestigious institution like Villanova about to get a masters degree without ever completing high school.
BROWN: You know, so I think that speaks to you as a human being, and so it’s fantastic to hear that. You’ve dealt with adversity and transition very well. So now you use those strengths and continue to do so. That’s great news. Is there anything you’d like to add as we wrap up this story?
JONES: That’s pretty much it.
BROWN: All right, well, thank you very much for joining us today here at the library and we look forward to working with you as you move forward with your academic career.
JONES: All right, thank you.
BROWN (OUTRO): That concludes this installment of the Voices of Villanova’s Veterans, a joint project of the Villanova University Office of Veterans and Military Service members and Falvey Memorial Library’s distinctive collections and digital engagement department. Thank you for listening. For more information and to listen to more interviews, please visit us online at veteransvoices.library.Villanova,edu.
 The ASVAB measures aptitude and acquired skills which can be used to help predict future academic and occupational success.
 MOS: Military Occupational Specialties
 AIT: Advanced Individual Training schools teach Soldiers the technical skills needed for their specific Army job.
 MRE: Meals Ready-to-Eat.
 The Montgomery GI Bill provides up to 36 months of education benefits to eligible Service members and Veterans for programs.