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Pound Ridge Vet Leaves Legacy of Caring

POUND RIDGE, N.Y. – Eric Jones always wanted to fly. It was a dream that began when he was a student at Pound Ridge Elementary School.

After graduating from Northeastern in May 2004, he enrolled in Officers Candidate School (OCS) for the Marines the following month. Soon he fulfilled that dream of flying by becoming a helicopter pilot.

After earning his aviator wings, Jones served as a combat helicopter pilot, saving numerous ground troops’ lives throughout countless missions over Iraq and Afghanistan. He was killed in a helicopter accident while supporting a combat mission in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan on Oct. 26, 2009.

Not long after his death, Eric’s parents, Ken and Cyndy Jones, with the help of a few of Eric’s closet friends, started Heroes in Transition (HIT), a not-for-profit organization that provides assistance to veterans that is not readily available from other organizations, including local, state and federal agencies. The organization’s goal is to carry on Jones’ mission to help his fellow brothers in arms.

“We started the organization very shortly after Eric’s death,” said his mother, Cyndy. “We thought, ‘What would Eric do?’ The answer was: help the troops. The reason he became a helicopter pilot was so he could be close to the troops and help them out by providing cover fire.”

Heroes in Transition provides assistance to vets who are headed back to civilian life in four primary areas: Home modifications for disabled veterans, assistance dogs through NEADS/Canines for Combat Veterans,transitional support group therapy, and financial support for military families.

“Eric loved dogs,” said Cyndy. “These are trained dogs for returning vets with major disabilities. We sponsor the dogs from puppy to adulthood and then they are matched with a veteran. With our fundraising, so far we have been able to sponsor three dogs.”

The home modification aspect for Heroes in Transition provides funds so that disabled vets can modify their homes for better wheelchair accessibility.

“We funded a stair chairlift for disabled veterans and are working on some other projects that we have in the hopper that we haven’t finalized,” said Jones’ father, Ken. “The government can’t cover all the expenses and that’s where we come in. We can help do things like build ramps and widen doorways.”

The organization also provides ongoing transition support through group therapy that includes spouses and family members. The group has two social workers who are working with returning veterans to help them transition back to civilian world.

“That can be difficult for family members who try to relate to them,” said Cyndy. “It’s very hard. As civilians, we can’t begin to fathom what they’ve been through.”

HIT also aids vets who are down on their luck financially. Many come back from the war and are without jobs. The group will help the vet and his or her family with things such as mortgage and car payments.

“We helped with a family whose heating system needed repairing in the winter time; in fact, they needed a whole new system,” Ken said. “He was a vet with three young children and we helped fund that.”

The group raises money by holding galas and runs. They have had three galas and three races (two in California, one in Washington D.C.) so far. They also are supported by donations from organizations and individuals.

“The people in Pound Ridge have been absolutely wonderful in helping us with donations,” Cyndy said. “The Bedford School District has also helped and has been very supportive.”

HIT will be holding a fundraising event this weekend – Saturday and Sunday – at Scotts Corner Market.

Jones’ parents said their son, who was a football player and captain of the lacrosse team at Fox Lane High School, loved growing up in Pound Ridge and looked forward to returning as often as possible.

“Eric when he came home on leave would spend time with us and then take my car and take trips to see his friends in Pound Ridge,” Cyndy said. “It was a major part of his life. Eric loved where he lived and he loved Fox Lane; he never forgot.”

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