Champion of Marines, Congressman Walter Jones has died

Julia LeDoux
February 11, 2019 - 1:10 pm

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North Carolina Congressman Walter Jones, a strong supporter of the U.S. military and whose district included Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, died Sunday as the result of an undisclosed illness. He was 76.

“Congressman Jones was a man of the people,” a statement from his office in Greenville announcing his death Feb. 10 read. “He was a champion for our men and women in uniform and their families, always mindful of their service and sacrifice.”

First elected to the House of Representatives in 1994, Jones served 12 consecutive terms in Congress and was a strong advocate for the Marine Corps, veterans, and their families.

“I had the honor of working with my fellow North Carolinian and friend Walter Jones for 30 years,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement  "His love for the men and women who wore the uniform knew no bounds. He was a public servant of uncommon humility and decency. “

Initially supportive of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Jones even sponsored a bill that changed the name of French fries to Freedom fries after France refused to join the U.S.-led coalition. However, he came to regret his vote on the resolution to go to war and said so repeatedly.

In a 2015 radio interview, Jones said he did not do the research he should have done to determine if President George W. Bush was being truthful about Saddam Hussein, his links to 9/11, and whether he had weapons of mass destruction.

“Because I did not do my job then, I helped kill 4,000 Americans, and I will go to my grave regretting that,” Jones said.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Jones said he signed more than 11,000 letters to the families of service members who died in the war as a way to atone for his vote.

“I want them to know my heart aches as their heart aches,” he said.

He also displayed pictures of those sent from Camp Lejeune who died while fighting.

Jones was also instrumental in helping clear the names of two Marine pilots who were erroneously blamed for the deadly crash of a V-22 Osprey in 2000. He also fought for 10 years for the public exoneration of Marines who had been accused of murdering Afghani children. And supported Marine Lt. Ilario Pantano who was charged with the shooting deaths of two Iraqis.

Jones repeatedly but unsuccessfully introduced legislation that would change the name of the Department of the Navy to the Department of the Navy and Marine Corps and worked to create a military working dogs memorial.

“Jones’ legacy will undoubtedly be tine unequivocal advocacy he put forth for the men and women who serve in the country’s armed forces and not just those who lived in his district, but across the nation,” said Robin Hayes, chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party in a statement.

Additionally, Jones served in the North Carolina National Guard from 1967 to 1971. He is survived by his wife, Joe Anne and their daughter, Ashley.

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