Hero Veteran Honored By Hampton Bays Schoolchildren
HAMPTON BAYS, NY — Hampton Bays students have resumed their tradition of honoring local veterans for the first time since a pandemic pause.
The district’s mission is to “take history out of the textbooks by honoring a local veteran each month of the school year,” officials said.
During a ceremony Wednesday, fourth grade students both celebrated Veterans Day and honored retired Captain William “Bill” Jones, who is being recognized at the school by having an American flag flown in his honor throughout November. Jones is the 75th veteran to be honored by the district since 2011.
As part of the ceremony, held at Hampton Bays Elementary School, students read Jones’ biography, spoke about the importance of Veterans Day and sang patriotic songs. They also had the opportunity to meet with members of the Coast Guard.
Jones, born in Sag Harbor, attended Pierson High School, where he was active in both athletic and academic activities, including serving as president of the Latin Club, distrit officials said.
As he prepared to graduate from Pierson in 1968, he decided to pursue a military education at the U.S. Military Academy West Point. This was a controversial decision because of the prevalent anti-military and anti-war sentiments in America at that time, the district said.
He recalled situations at West Point where other college-aged students protested the war on the academy’s grounds.
Jones, the district said, worked hard during his years at West Point and discussed being a new cadet and the “target of an upperclassman’s toughness.”
Despite the obstacles, he graduated as a second lieutenant in 1972 with a degree in engineering.
After graduation, Jones completed “jump school” at Fort Benning, Georgia, and was assigned as a platoon leader to an air and missile defense artillery unit with 18 surface-to-air missiles in Illesheim, Germany.
“Jones’ job was straightforward — shoot down every Communist Mig fighter that crossed into West German airspace,” the district said. “Fortunately, he never had to do that.”
In 1974, he was transferred to Wurzburg, Germany, where he was given the assignment of officer in charge of race relations and equal opportunity for 19 air defense batteries in the 69th Air Defense Group.
During that assignment, in 1976, he completed his master’s degree in education remotely from the University of Southern California. He was promoted to captain and reassigned to Homestead Air Force Base in Florida before being honorably discharged in June 1977.
Jones then decided to follow his family’s tradition of public service. Following the military, he served as a Suffolk County legislator for two years, on the executive staff for the Suffolk County Executive’s Office, as a deputy commissioner for the Suffolk County Department of Social Services, and finally as director of human services and deputy town supervisor for the Town of Southampton. In 1994, he married Pam Jackson of Southampton.
According to Jones, one of his greatest personal accomplishments in public service has been his role as president and co-founder of Honor Flight Long Island. Honor Flight has been responsible for providing over 1,650 Long Island veterans, mostly of World War II),with the opportunity to see their memorial in Washington, D.C., and to share their experiences with subsequent generations, he said.
Honor Flight is now assisting Korean and Vietnam War veterans by providing a free trip to Washington, D.C., to see their respective memorials. He is also co-chair of the Southampton Combined Veterans Organization and serves as master of ceremonies for Southampton Village’s annual Veterans Day and Memorial Day ceremonies.
Jones is a resident of the Town of Southampton, an active member of the American Legion and an elder at First Presbyterian Church of Southampton.