As the nation prepares to honor Veterans Day next Monday, the SFA community won’t want to look past an treasure here on campus.
Charles Jones, Regents Professor of Art, served three years in the Marine Corps, 13 months were spent fighting in the Vietnam War. Jones was a Platoon Commander with the 2nd Platoon of Charley Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.
According to uswings.com, the war spent 58,148 American lives and 303,644 more injuries smirk at the three American presidents that steered the controversial conflict. The exact start is unclear. Capt. Marshal Hanson of uswings.com sites 1964-1975 as the official timeline.
Jones, who had a undergraduate degree in art, joined the Army R.O.T.C. in 1962. When the Draft took effect in 1966, he decided to join the Fleet Marine Force, Pacific following Officers Basic School in Virginia.
Jones, now the operator of LaNana Creak Press, trudged through combat ahead of his men with tactics that are still in effect today. Charley Company, or Suicide Charley as it was called, adopted his deceptive field maneuvers that helped win his Company many fire fights. Since the Vietnamese engaged U.S. forces with guerrilla style attacks, it was important for the Americans to deploy different ways of fighting. Jones cut his Platoon into smaller, weaker, groups of three to appear more susceptible to the Viet Cong’s vicious attacks.
His time spent in the service also translated into his career as an educator.
“I found that going to Officers Basic School and the approach to education their influenced my way of teaching and insisting on being prepared. I was teaching graduate students to be prepared and to understand the role of creativity and problem solving in everyday life,” Jones said.
A natural artist, Jones spent his downtime with a sketch pad, resurrecting scenes of battle and brotherhood. From abstract watercolor pieces of dead VC, to native Vietnamese women, Jones documented his personal experience in the country. It was a break from the common journalistic photos taken by the clump of photographers throughout the war.
“There were several in the platoon that would come together and share our drawings as a new way to look at the war,” Jones said. “There are truths you can tell using the arts. It gives more of a humanist view.”
The first-hand works have recently been published in his book, Chopper Blues.
Chopper Blues is representative of Jones’ everlasting desire to have important work. Over his 42-year stay at SFA, he has been awarded every teaching award possible. In his cluttered craft shop, only one modest piece of evidence hangs on the wall reflecting his robust career.
“I think my success as teacher was influenced by a decision I made when I got out of the service,” Jones said. “Because I did see so much loss of life I knew whatever I did with my new career had to be important to me. I believe that the role of arts in society is an important aspect of life. And I think, for me, that thinking and creative problem solving contributed to my success in the war.”