ELK GROVE, Calif. (KTXL) — At just 18 months old, Chuck Jones of Elk Grove was taken as a prisoner of war.
“December 7, ‘41, the Japanese attacked Pearl. On the 8th, they attacked the Philippines, and that’s where we were, where we lived.”
His dad, an American oil executive, was stationed in the Philippines during WWII. He sent his son and his pregnant wife up in the hills to hide with the native Guerrilla Troops and United States soldiers.
“The Japanese knew that there was a bunch of us in the hills,” Jones explained. “They issued an ultimatum: You had to surrender, and if you did not surrender when you were caught, you would be summarily executed.”
After they surrendered, his family was taken to a concentration camp, where he spent the first few years of his childhood.
“The concept of being imprisoned wasn’t there for me,” he said. “I thought that this is the way the world was. So to me, that was life. Life meant you were hungry.”
On February 3, 1945, Jones said, a plane dropped a note saying their suffering would soon be over.
“One of the tanks hit that gate. ‘Bwang … Bwang’ was the sound of freedom,” Jones remembered. “When those tanks came through, my dad put me on his shoulders and said, ‘They’re here for your birthday, Charlie.’”
“On the 5th of February, they officially raised the flag over the camp,” Jones continued. “He flew that flag and that flag — look at it, 48 stars on that — that is the flag that he flew, and that was my birthday present. That represents probably the most treasured item I have.”
Soon after, his mom, dad and his younger sister were on a boat back to America.
“The first thing I saw coming to this country on the hospital ship coming back from being a POW: the Golden Gate Bridge. Oh my God, that put such an imprint on my mind,” Jones remembered.
Jones and his family settled in the Bay Area until the Vietnam War.
“I owed so much. They were looking for volunteers,” Jones said.
He felt the need to pay it forward. Inspired by the troops who freed his family, he joined the Air Force.
“By golly, I volunteered,” Jones said. “So, my buddy said, ‘You’re crazy, man. You’re crazy. You’re nuts.’ ‘I’m not. I’m going.’ So I went.”
After an eight-year career in the military, Jones spent 30 years with the Department of Justice.
“It means so much to me to see a unified country,” he said. “Hurts me more than anything else is to see people nitpicking.”
This Veterans Day, Jones hopes people can reflect on the true meaning of the day.
“I would like them to see what they represent, what these people represent: that they represent devotion to duty, integrity and those personal attributes that we forget about,” Jones said.
He hopes politics doesn’t get in the way of patriotism.
“We are engaged in a civil war, and it’s red and blue,” Jones said with a laugh. “I would like to see those two colors. What is red and blue come out to be? Orange or something, I would like to see us orange.”