The family of Army Spec. Rodney A. Jones buried the young soldier at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday, along with his dreams.
Jones, 21, was killed Sept. 30 in Baghdad when a car bomb exploded near his dismounted patrol. He was the 87th soldier killed in Iraq to be buried at Arlington.
Jones, of Northeast Philadelphia, had joined the Army because he thought it would help him reach his goal of one day becoming an elected official, according to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer. His mother, Renee Jones, told the paper that her son had hoped to attend college after leaving the Army. She said he had dreamed of a life in politics since he was 16 and planned to work his way up the political ladder -- from local office to president of the United States.
"He planned his life," Jones told the newspaper. "He was going into politics, and he felt the only way to start was to go into the service."
Yesterday, a light drizzle stopped and the sun broke through the clouds as six servicemen carried Jones's coffin to the grave site, where more than two dozen mourners gathered to say good-bye.
Army Maj. Raymond Robinson spoke of the supreme sacrifice that Jones had made for his country. After the chaplain's remarks, seven riflemen fired three volleys into the air in salute. The sound of taps filled the air.
Jones's family was presented with the U.S. flag, along with the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal and Combat Infantryman's Badge that Jones was awarded posthumously.
Acting Secretary of the Army Les Brownlee attended the service and at one point knelt in front of family members and spoke to them privately.
Jones, a member of the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry regiment, 1st Cavalry Division in Fort Hood, Tex., graduated early from Roxborough High School and went to work for the Internal Revenue Service, a job he quit to join the Army when he was 18, according to news accounts.
His mother said she could not understand why her son would enlist when he had a good job and his own apartment, according to Inquirer accounts. He told her, "In order to be a good politician, you have to serve your country."
Family members told his hometown newspapers that the young soldier loved to read and listen to classical music. He was also learning Arabic while he was in Iraq and, on a recent visit home, was able to practice his new language skills with several fast-food workers at a Philadelphia restaurant, according to a story in the Philadelphia Daily News. He had studied Iraq and its culture to prepare for his deployment.
"He was going to be president one day," Jones's sister, Felicia Devine, told the Inquirer. "He told me when he was, like, 16. I believe, really believe, that he would have been."