WWII veteran and son hug in emotional first meeting
Shane Jones of Phenix City recently sent his brother Mickey Jones of Columbus an email that read, “Well, it appears all this information is true, and we have a brother from another mother.”
The brothers laughed, and began arrangements to introduce their 92-year old father Nathan Jones to the 70-year old German son that he didn’t know he had.
Pfc. Nathan Jones, of Abbeville, Al., and Bernhard Draiscol of Konigsberg, Germany, met for the first time Saturday at the National Infantry Museum. The emotional hug led to tears, laughter, stories and a new chapter in the life of a close-knit family. Jones and Draiscol got to know each other as Jones’ two sons Mickey and Shane, his daughter-in-law Robin and three grandchildren Hannah, Jennifer and Zach gathered around the table to watch and listen.
“I look just like you,” laughed Draiscol.
“Drude’s eyes,” said Nathan Jones, as he held Draiscol’s arm and looked into his eyes.
Jones was a 22-year old private stationed in Oldenburg, Germany during World War II when he met Drude-Maria Irene Peppel. Jones would give the young German woman his extra K-rations and food from the mess hall to help her survive. When the choice came to re-enlist or return home to Alabama, he went home. Peppel had no way of contacting Jones once she realized that she was pregnant with their son. Tears came to his eyes as he remembered Drude.
As a young man, Draiscol moved to California with his mother, served in Vietnam and became a U.S. citizen. Peppel had told her son that his father was a German soldier who died in a car accident. “She did the best she could with what she had,” Draiscol said of his mother’s life during the war. “He was a fictional character, I believe, that my mother made up in order to give herself and her child some legitimacy in the world.”
After his mother’s death in 2008, Draiscol began a search for relatives through Ancestry.com DNA testing. It wasn’t a new thought, it was a missing piece in his life. “I was always attracted to families,” he said, “always attracted to people who seemed to have good relationships.”
To that end, Draiscol spent three years making a film about his mother. “It’s about longing to belong,” he said of the film, “just wanting to belong somewhere.”
The extended Jones family has welcomed their newly-found son, brother and uncle with open arms. “It never entered our mind not to accept him in, and love him like he’d been in our life all along,” said Mickey Jones.
“I wish I was able to go fishing with him right now,” Nathan Jones said. “Togetherness. I hope I can start something than can continue until I die.”