An appreciation of Congressman Walter Jones
By Robert Marske
For The Daily Reflector
Sunday, February 24, 2019
I’m sure Arthur Marske, my father, had met Walter Jones before, probably they shook hands, at one of the Congressman’s appearances around the 3rd Congressional District. But it was never like this.
My dad fought in World War II, in Okinawa, part of the 96th Infantry Division. That’s the division that you see being relieved by Desmond Doss’ 77th in the movie “Hacksaw Ridge.” He received the Purple Heart — from no less than Admiral Nimitz — for injuries sustained there. Then he quickly returned to battle to see the conflict through.
Dad was proudest of the Combat Infantryman Badge. He said “look at a photograph of any five-star general in uniform. You’ll always see their Combat Infantryman Badge, right on top. That’s the one they’re proudest of, because that’s the one you can only earn on the field of battle.”
What Dad didn’t know was that, in 1962, President Kennedy had retroactively awarded the Bronze Star Medal to those who earned the Combat Infantryman Badge during World War II. He didn’t know because he had moved on from the war, to raising a family, and to continuing the work of that “Greatest Generation.”
Dad was approaching his 86th birthday when I learned that he was eligible for the Bronze Star. That is when I reached out to Congressman Jones. And it didn’t take much to spur Walter Jones into action. As anyone in eastern North Carolina knows, Walter Jones was a dedicated supporter of our men in uniform.
So there they were, on a chilly February morning just a few days after Dad’s birthday. Congressman Jones, having pushed things through a notoriously slow Army bureaucracy, once again shaking my dad’s hand, but this time presenting him with his Bronze Star medal.
He said,” You have done so much ... We could never match what you have done for our country,” as he pinned the Bronze Star on Arthur Marske’s lapel, 40 years after it was earned. “World War II veterans never asked for anything ... They came back like you did and made this country a better place.”
North Carolinians, no doubt, will remember Congressman Jones for a lot of things. My family will always remember Walter Jones for giving Dad this long overdue recognition. Thank you, Congressman Jones.
Robert Marske lives in Fairfax, Va. His father, who died shortly after receiving his Bronze Star in 2012, lived in Cape Carteret.