Monday, October 26, 2009

Marine Capt. Eric A. Jones

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Capt. Eric A. Jones, 29, of Westchester, N.Y.

Capt. Jones was assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; died Oct. 26, 2009 in a collision between a UH-1 and an AH-1 helicopter in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Also killed were Cpl. Gregory M.W. Fleury, Capt. David S. Mitchell and Capt. Kyle R. Van De Giesen.

POUND RIDGE - As a Marine attack helicopter pilot, Eric Jones regularly put his life on the line. There were times when his aircraft would be under enemy fire and he most certainly had brushes with danger since his commission in 2004 and later when he was assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169.

But Jones, a 1999 graduate of Fox Lane High School, was never one to tell war stories, said his mother, Cynthia Jones. If he was even to hint at the danger, he would do so only in passing, and as part of a joke, laughing it off, his parents said.

Despite his fun-loving demeanor, they always feared for the worst, knowing that one day they might receive the news they got Monday.

Eric Jones, 29, was one of four Marines killed when two helicopters collided over the Helmand province in southern Afghanistan.

"I was always scared about the knock on the door, and it happened," Cynthia Jones, a retired Katonah-Lewisboro elementary school teacher, said during a telephone interview from her home in Mashpee, Mass., where the Joneses have lived since 2005.

Eric Jones was born in Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco and grew up in Pound Ridge. He was a competitive swimmer and, later, played football and lacrosse in high school.

"Eric just loved life," his mother said. "He had a lot of friends, and he was a happy guy. He just made people laugh, and he was very caring."

After high school, he attended Northeastern University, where he continued playing lacrosse, and then began taking private flying lessons. Ever since he was young, Jones had a fascination with flying, which was further stoked when he was 12 and got to go up on a plane with a friend.

"He always wanted to fly, and he wanted to go in the military," his mother said, adding that he chose to fly helicopters because he wanted to be closer to ground troops and provide them air support. "That was his calling."

Jones, who was contracted to stay in the military until 2013, was only a couple of weeks away from returning home for a visit, his mother said. He had planned on returning to Pound Ridge next month to attend his class's 10-year reunion.

"Two weeks and this was it," Cynthia Jones said. "He was scheduled to come home mid-November, the 11th of November."

The Joneses, who were members of the Pound Ridge Community Church, are still completing plans for their son's funeral, which will be held in Massachusetts. Cynthia Jones said she is thankful to the Marines who have provided her support since delivering her the news. In the face of the tragedy, she said, she cherishes the time that she had with her son, whom she described as a "Marine, through-and-through."

"I'm just so grateful that God graced us with such a gorgeous son," she said.

Marine Capt. Eric A. Jones was killed in action on 10/26/09.

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