Former Truro man being recognized for heroic actions in the Battle of Vimy Ridge
TRURO - Finally.
It may be more than 90 years late but a former Truro son and First World War veteran is finally getting his due.
Private Jeremiah (Jerry) Alvin Jones is to be posthumously awarded the Canadian Forces Distinguished Service Medallion for his conduct in battle.
The medal will be presented to family members during a ceremony at the Royal Canadian Legion in Truro on Monday afternoon, which will be presided over by Lt. Gov. Mayann Francis and Defense Minister Peter MacKay.
"It is exciting," said granddaughter and Truro resident Marie (Jones) Francis, the eldest child of Jones's son Elmer.
"It's inspirational for the family, for the children, for his grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great- great-grandchildren," she said. "It's very meaningful and it is showing that as you wait patiently, things will happen and change will come."
Jones enlisted with the 106th Battalion of the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force on June 19, 1916 in Truro and was discharged in Halifax on May 8, 1918 after being found medically unfit to serve.
At age 50, he actually had to lie about his age in order to enlist.
"He would laugh," Francis said, recalling her grandfather's antics of telling the story about his enlistment in the First World War. "He said 'those fellers didn't know how old I was.'"
His act of heroism, for which he is finally being recognized, dates to the spring of 1917 during the Battle of Vimy Ridge when he single-handedly took out a German machine gun nest.
Amid a raging and bloody battle that had Canadian troops pinned down by machine gun fire, Jones volunteered to attempt to silence the German gun.
"I threw a hand bomb (grenade) right into the nest and killed about seven of them," he was quoted as saying in a past Canadian Press story. "I was going to throw another bomb, when they threw up their arms and called for mercy."
The remaining half dozen enemy troops then surrendered to Jones, who forced them to carry their machine gun back across the battlefield to the Canadian lines where they dropped it at the feet of his commanding officer.
Wounded in the action, and again during the battle of Passchendale, Jones was recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal - an award for valour, second only to the Victoria Cross. But, faced with the discrimination that failed to recognize the deeds of he and other black soldiers of his time, Jones was passed over for recognition time and time again.
The late Nova Scotia Senator Calvin Ruck worked without success for more than a decade to get the Canadian government to award a medal posthumously to his friend.
During that campaign, Ruck argued that the racist climate of the time precluded Jones or other black soldiers from getting their due recognition and he felt that it would be appropriate for the government to award the medal to Jones on behalf of all black veterans.
"It's long overdue but in the fullness of time it's always the right time in God's eyes," Francis said, in a
display of better-late-than-never mindset.
Over the years, family members continued to fight on his behalf and, despite the passing decades, they never really gave up hope that his day would come.
"We were trusting that it would," Francis said. "We knew that it was going to happen, there were a lot of people who were advocating for this."