The body of a Pennsylvania soldier killed in Afghanistan was escorted through his hometown Wednesday as hundreds of people lined the route, paying their respects to the former standout athlete and West Point graduate who belonged to an Army Special Forces unit.
Led by a contingent of motorcycles, a hearse carrying Jones' body rolled through Orwigsburg on an overcast, drizzly day. It rolled to a stop underneath a gigantic American flag strung between the crossed ladders of two fire trucks, and the crowd fell silent as an honor guard saluted. Then the procession continued on, winding up at a Pottsville funeral home.
His father, Jay Jones, thanked residents for turning out.
"I cannot describe in words how appreciative we are of all this," he said. "The support for us has been unbelievable, and has really helped us get through this extraordinarily difficult time."
Jason Jones was a star high school soccer player and a co-captain of his basketball team. He graduated from the United States Military Academy with a nuclear engineering degree in 2007. His family said he graduated from U.S. Army Ranger School and U.S. Army Airborne School in 2008 and was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division.
He served in Iraq in 2008-09, earning a Bronze Star.
Jones, who had been married less than a year, qualified as a Green Beret last year and was assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
"I think there's two things that I'd like people to remember. First, is how humble he was. He received awards from West Point and during his military career that we never knew about. And that's the way he was. He was so modest," Jay Jones said.
Jones also said his son "loved his school, he loved his sports, he loved his military. He had so many happy days. And he was happy doing what he was doing."
A memorial service was held Saturday in Pottsville. Jones will be buried at West Point in New York on Tuesday.