Delayed, But Not Denied
Posted in: Stories
In the fall of 1959, Lieutenant Warren E. Jones was released from helicopter training with the U.S. Army at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and subsequently reassigned to the infantry. A lifelong dream to fly was not to be for him, but not for any reason that was easily accepted.
At that time the Army had an agreement that the children of officers would attend one of the local off-base elementary schools – a segregated school. No African-American officers attending flight training had any children of school age until Lt. Jones’ son (my eldest brother) turned five and became eligible. “Civic leaders” from the city informed the leadership at Fort Rucker of the unacceptable situation facing them.
Within a week and a half after that meeting, my father, who was up until this time excelling as a helicopter pilot, was de-enrolled for “instructor noted non-progression.” My father, Warren E. Jones, Lt. Col., U.S. Army (Ret.) went on to have a stellar career as an infantry officer. He was both an airborne and ranger qualified soldier and served two distinguished combat tours in Vietnam. After his passing in 1990, my mother showed me a crumpled piece of paper he always kept in his wallet – his release from flight school.
In the summer of 1983, a very happy Second Lieutenant Daryl “Bones” Jones (me) received his long sought after wings of a military aviator. At the time I had no idea why my dad, who was ailing from an illness that would ultimately take his life, would fly all that way out to Arizona for a 30-minute ceremony, in a hot, crummy military base theater for the 20 seconds it took to see the USAF pin on my wings. His big “dad smile” along with those tears coursing down his cheeks seemed incongruent and a little “over the top” for such a simple ceremony. I didn’t get it at the time, but now I do. A Lt. Jones proudly wearing the wings of a military aviator was an event for him that was delayed, but in his fourth son was not denied.
As we celebrate Black History Month, we who serve the men and women wearing their nations’ uniform should take this time to reflect on the truth that our God is in the divine business of reconciling not only the brokenness around us, but also the brokenness that is often within us (2 Corinthians 5:19).
The enduring reality of the cross stands as a testimony that while this world’s brokenness – including racism, prejudice, and injustice toward others – can often delay God’s justice and His righteousness, Christ’s reconciling work cannot ever be denied. I’d like to believe that in that crummy little base theater at “Willy” AFB, my dad experienced a reconciling touch and a long-delayed but not denied gift from the Lord. It is to that reconciling work that we at the Military Ministry of Cru remain fully committed as we serve and minister to the global military community! The reality of God’s reconciling work through Christ is a truth that BOTH Lieutenants Jones experienced, and one to which we might all pledge ourselves anew that others might as well. Have a blessed and impactful Black History Month!