It was many years after the fact, but one of the heroes of Normandy was recognized in Baton Rouge for his wounds received during the June 1944 invasion of Europe.
Civil rights lawyer Johnnie Jones was a young warrant officer and was wounded on the beach but continued to fight. He also fought in the dramatic Christmas counterattack by German forces, the Battle of the Bulge.
And a grateful nation, with a United States senator pinning it on his uniform, finally awarded the Purple Heart to Jones, 101.
U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge officiated at the ceremony at the Old State Capitol, where Jones’ service — in war and in peace — was recognized with plaudits and a standing ovation.
His life has extraordinary lessons: Within days after getting his postwar law degree from Southern University, he was asked to represent the brave souls who participated in the 1953 bus boycott in his home city. It was an inspiration for the Montgomery civil disobedience campaign in Alabama two years later, led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Jones as a young man had fought and bled in Europe for the liberty of the world but then had to come home and fight for the liberty of his fellow Black Americans in peacetime.
In the closing comments of a short documentary about his life, Jones expressed a sentiment that many can relate to on this Independence Day holiday: “Even though I had to talk about it hard, this is the best country in the world.”