Family unit

Glenice Jones of Clovis stands outside her house Friday in Clovis. Jones’ husband Walter and their son David are in the Army and their other son, Brian, is in the Army National Guard.

By Darrell Todd Maurina

Master Sgt. Walter Jones learned Friday he will become a grandfather the same way he’s learned about other events in recent weeks — during a telephone call to his wife in Clovis, Glenice Jones, placed from Fort Bliss in Texas. That’s the Army base from which he’s been getting ready to leave for Iraq.
It turned out to be Jones’ last call home before deploying. The 54-year-old father of two soldiers left shortly thereafter for Germany en route to Iraq, where the National Guard unit he serves in Springer, the 515th Corps Support Battalion, will join Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Iraq will be new territory for Jones, who served a combat tour of duty in Vietnam and also was stationed for a year in Korea. His younger son David is already there as a private, having left Feb. 6 to join a different unit of the active-duty Army. His older son, Brian, is a specialist in the Portales National Guard unit.
All that change can be hard on families, but Glenice Jones said she’s trying hard to cope.
“I don’t watch the news anymore; I’ve given it up,” she said.
“We watch the news, cry, and then say, ‘Don’t tell Glenice,’” joked her daughter-in-law, Stephanie Jones.
Although seeing her husband leave for combat has been difficult, Glenice Jones said serving in the military has been her husband’s career for many years and her family wants to understand and support their soldiers.
“He likes change, he likes adventure, and that’s part of the reason he’s in the military,” she said. “I’m not as afraid as I was during Vietnam when both of my sisters married (into the) Air Force; we had a lot of friends and some of them we never knew if they would make it back.
“I want him to fulfill his career,” she said. “I know that he’ll be going into harm’s way, but I want him to have positive memories of going into battle and coming back and having the country support him. That’s not what happened with Vietnam.”
Glenice Jones said the Vietnam experience has been helpful. Her husband is the only soldier in his unit to know combat first-hand and he has tried to help younger people in his unit.
“One thing he had told me is there are some kids in his unit — the youngest is 18,” she said. “They look to him for guidance and direction. His way of looking at this is as an adventure. They are well-trained, well-prepared, and they have a job to do, but they are also going to get to go to a part of the world he never thought he would be able to see.”
Walter Jones agreed to a brief phone interview during his last pre-deployment call to his family, and agreed that his troops are ready for what’s coming next.
“They all have high morale and are doing well,” he said. “I’ve talked with some of the younger soldiers about what to expect and I said it is different for each one of us, but all of us will be changed (by combat).”
Although her husband is in the National Guard, his full-time role as a senior non-commissioned officer has required him to move repeatedly from Clovis and Portales to Tucumcari, Roswell, and finally to Springer. Glenice Jones said that’s helped her prepare mentally for the deployment.
“One advantage that he and I have compared to other couples is we haven’t always lived together as a traditional family — I lived here, he would go where the job took him,” she said. “I’m used to him not being here, but I am having a hard time getting used to not being able to call him.”
For Stephanie Jones, who married into a military family rather than growing up with it, hearing about her brother-in-law and father-in-law’s military service can be scary, especially when she thinks about her new husband possibly joining them.
“I am totally still learning about the military,” she said. “The three guys will talk about things and Glenice will translate for us.”
Glenice Jones said one coping strategy for her has been to clutch her husband’s wedding ring, which he left for safekeeping.
“Walter and I have had these battles about what if something happened,” she said. “He said, ‘I don’t want to take my wedding ring into combat.’ … When I really get lonely, I will just rub the gold, and I may have rubbed it all off before he gets home.’”