VETERANS DAY 2016
Sub duty, service taught Jones life-long lessons
By Rebecca Bunch
Saturday, November 18, 2017
EDENTON — Frank Jones, owner of the Downtown Cafe and Soda Shoppe in Edenton, was 20 years old when he enlisted in the Navy.
"It was January of 1971 and the Vietnam War was still going strong," Jones said. "I became eligible for the draft in 1970 when they used the lottery system to determine when you would be drafted."
Jones said his number was 141 and he learned after investigating the matter that he could expect to be drafted in January of 1971.
"I talked to all the services and I felt like the Navy had the best educational opportunities," he explained. "Also I think I was influenced by the fact that my dad had served in the Navy during World War II. So I joined the Navy."
Jones said that not long after entering the Navy, he volunteered for submarine duty.
"I liked the things that I had heard about the Submarine Force, things like the small crew and their more extensive training and the fact that most of the operations were secret," Jones said when asked why he chose that branch of the service.
"It sounded like there was more adventure involved and also the fact that just anyone couldn't qualify for that type of duty," he added. "It was a special type of duty and that appealed to me."
Jones said once he arrived at boot camp he learned to his surprise that many of those he met there couldn't swim.
"I was amazed that so many guys would voluntarily join the Navy when they had no idea of how to swim," he said. "I thought joining the Navy and knowing you would more than likely be assigned to a ship would motivate everyone to know how to swim."
Jones said that early on in boot camp the men had to pass a swimming test.
"Many could not pass it and then they had to learn to swim before they could proceed with their training," he said. "Learning to swim the Navy way was not a pleasant experience. I saw some of the swimming instruction and I was very glad I already knew how to swim."
All in all, though, Jones said he had "many good memories" of the men with whom he served.
"Most of those memories have to do with the camaraderie and the closeness we all experienced," Jones said. "While we were not all best friends, we knew we could depend on each other under a variety of stressful situations. We could trust each other and we did trust each other with our lives."
Jones said his time in the Navy definitely impacted his life after his military service ended.
"I think being in the military gave me a different way of approaching life," Jones said. "It gave me a more acute sense of personal responsibility and it gave me confidence in myself and my own abilities. It showed me the value of teamwork and showed me how to build a team. It showed me the value of constantly striving for perfection and that the goal of perfection is attainable."
Jones, who will be the keynote speaker at the annual Veterans Day ceremony in Edenton later this month, said he has definitely used what he learned in the Navy in his post-military life, both privately and professionally.
"It was a great experience for me," he said.
Jones said that over the years he has maintained his ties to others who have served in the military.
"Since I left the military I have joined the American Legion and the United States Submarine Veterans," he said. "Both of these organizations are active in veterans affairs and it is a good way to associate with others who have served."
Jones said that he has also stayed in touch over the years with many of the men with whom he served.
"Some of us found each other through the Internet," he said. "We also started having a reunion of the submariners I served with. We had our first reunion about six years ago and we are trying to get together every three years."
Jones said that Veterans Day remains a special time for him as well as others who have served our country.
"On Veterans Day I have attended the ceremony that the American Legion holds in Edenton," he said. "I have also tried to spend some time with friends who are veterans. I pray for all who have served and especially for those who lost their lives in the service of our country."