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Know Your Neighbor: Mike Jones' journey takes him from the military to the classroom

November 13, 2020 - 00:00
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    Mike Jones standing beside the B-25 with the One star General insignia attached to the side of the airplane. He flew with the General as his Flight Engineer. CONTRIBUTED

Mike Jones had a unique experience when he joined the military to serve our country. Jones was drafted at age 14 into the National Guard during World War II. Jones said he went to Fort Benning every weekend until he was 18 years old in 1948.

He then started to attend the University of Tampa. As a sophomore, he got the news that his brother had been drafted into the Army and he was likely to be drafted as well. Instead of waiting for a draft notice, he decided to enlist in the United States Air Force. Because of his previous service with the National Guard, they took him out of basic training and sent him to flight engineer training.

Three months into the six-month course, he was taken out of training and sent to be an instructor. This is where he found his passion for teaching.

“Once I started teaching, I decided to devote my life to education,” said Jones. “I’ll never be able to repay the Airforce. They helped me find myself.”

Eventually he was transferred from teaching to flying with the first two jet aces that performed airshows at events for one and a half years before he was sent back to teach at Sheppard Air Force base.

Later, he was discharged from Sheppard Air Force base and decided to pursue a career in education by going back to school at the University of Tampa where he received his master’s degree in Education.

“I was discharged on a Friday and was back to school on Monday,” said Jones.

After he worked for a while as an instructor, he became Superintendent for the Waycross school system and also spent 25 years as Gov. Zell Miller’s personal pilot and friend.

Today, he is 91 and still very active physically and mentally. He credits his time in the Air Force for that.

“Some of the best years of my life were in the Air Force. I’ll never be able to repay them,” he shared.