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    Double amputee shares story with Texas Marines

    Double amputee shares story with Texas Marines

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Jennifer Martinez | Retired Marine Staff Sgt. John P. Jones, a double amputee, speaks about his...... read more read more

    CARROLLTON, TX, UNITED STATES

    02.07.2013

    Story by Cpl. Jennifer Martinez 

    8th Marine Corps District

    CARROLLTON, Texas - “The toes were all black and they told me ‘We’ve got to take it,’ and I just said ‘Uh, okay well, here,’ and I drew the ‘X’ and then just passed out.”

    Staff Sgt. John P. Jones was hit by a double-stacked, anti-tank mine blast severely injuring both of his legs while on a convoy in Iraq Jan. 3, 2005. Upon returning to the United States for medical attention, he found that he would have to make the decision to amputate one, and ultimately both of his legs. He began his new life by marking an "X" above his left knee to represent the incision point for his first amputation.

    Jones shared his life-changing experiences at a monthly luncheon held by the Metroplex Marine Coordinating Council, an organization of active and retired Marines in the Dallas/ Fort Worth area, Feb. 7, 2012 in Carrollton, Texas.

    During his talk, the Enid, Okla. native explained the details of the events leading up to the loss of his legs.

    Jones, a platoon sergeant with Company C, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, set out in vehicle seven of a 35-vehicle convoy from Al-Qa'im to Ammo Supply Point “Wolf” in Anbar province. The route used was commonly referred to by local Marines as “the mined road” because the density of mines along the road remained dangerously high despite Marines’ best efforts to remove them.

    “We left the (Forward Operating Base) at 9:00 and at 9:20 we hit a double-stacked, anti-tank mine about 15 miles outside of the base,” Jones said. “I was launched 25 feet in the air and landed behind the Humvee, my gunner was launched about 10 feet in the air and landed in my seat, and my driver was a little rattled, but I was the only one severely wounded.”

    Jones recalled noticing his feet twisted in an unnatural direction and feeling like a truck was repeatedly running over his legs – his first thoughts were ‘How am I going to stay in the Marine Corps?’
    “It’s a really scary thing when, one second you’re riding at the front and the next second, you’re staring at the back of the Humvee you were riding in,” Jones told his fellow Marines at the forum.

    Jones was taken to the FOB’s intensive care station to undergo triage before beginning his journey back to the United States. He was first notified that he would lose his right leg upon arriving in Bethesda, Md.

    He underwent 10 months of surgeries and rehabilitation to try to salvage his left leg. When he received word he could no longer run or be active on his left leg, he chose to amputate it as well.
    “My amputated side was my good side, I didn’t have any pain and it worked perfectly fine, so I elected to amputate the second one so I could potentially stay in,” Jones said. “They told me I could, but I would be in a desk job and that wasn’t me. I kicked in doors for a living. I don’t sit back and watch people do what I’m supposed to be able to do.”

    Jones soon transferred to the Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio to be closer to his family.

    He credits his family and close friends, as well as his training as a Marine leader, for his strength throughout the ordeal of physical therapy and recovery.

    “I think that, being a Marine, we don’t give up,” Jones said. “We just don’t do that. We push through and persevere. I think that was a big piece to it. I also attribute it to my wife because she pushed me to be better. A few of my buddies that were in (1st Bn., 7th Marines) moved to Texas for new duty stations and it was really good to have my peers help push me, always keeping in constant contact, and letting me know that I was still the same person, but just a little broken now.”

    Jones medically retired in 2007 with 12 years of service under his belt. Years later, Jones now works as a representative for the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing scholarships for children of Marines and sailors, especially those wounded or killed in combat. This was how he met Lt. Col. Mitch Bell, the Reserve Support Officer for 8th Marine Corps District and discussion leader for the Metroplex Marines’ meetings.

    Jones and Bell met at the Skyball, an annual event to honor military service members in Dallas. Bell talked to him for an hour before finding out Jones was a medically retired Marine staff noncommissioned officer.

    “I looked at him and I couldn’t tell what was wrong with him so I asked ‘well, what’s wrong with you?’ and he says ‘I’ve got no legs!’ That’s when he lifted his pant legs and I saw his prosthetics. He started telling me about his road to recovery and what happened to him and then a couple lieutenants came over to the table and sat down. I introduced them to (Jones) and he went right back into his Staff NCO mode and began giving these officers some great advice. He told them, as officers, what they need to do from the enlisted man’s point of view.”

    This was nothing new from Jones according to Jason Berold, a retired first sergeant who served with him in Company C.

    “I liked Jones as a sergeant because he was very dependable, he spoke simple English and he was respectful; so I put him in charge of the heinous bunch of my platoon,” laughed Berold. “He was a true American: professional, confident and polite. He is what an NCO is supposed to be, at least on the infantry side.”
    Bell said he was so impressed by Jones’ confidence and attitude, he asked him to speak to the Metroplex Marines. Jones shared his story along with information about why the MCSF was so important to him.

    “I decided to work for the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation because I gave a solemn promise to two of my Marines that were dying in my arms, (that) were bleeding out and we couldn’t help them. There was nothing the (corpsman) could do and the (medevac helicopters) were late because of sandstorms. Whenever they are bleeding out right in front of you, and you tell them ‘don’t worry I’ll take care of your kids, I’ll take care of your family’ to make sure they get what they need; that’s why I work for the MCSF."

    Jones and others like him interested in helping Marines and their families have given $6 million in scholarship funds to 1,909 children in 2012 alone.

    Jones not only helps Marine Corps families, but takes time to reach out to other wounded warriors, Berold said. He and Jones regularly visit the Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio to talk to other service members who were going through what Jones did.
    Bell said one only needed to ask if they knew a wounded Marine in need and Jones would gladly oblige.

    “We had a wounded Marine down in San Antonio and I told him ‘hey this kid’s having trouble, he’s probably going to have to amputate his leg, so can you give him some advice and encouragement?’ Bell explained. “He just said ‘Oh, yes sir, no worries!’ He’s a great guy. I would say that Jones would give the shirt off his back to any Marine and probably anyone else.”

    Jones said what happened hardly bothers him anymore because talking with Marines and others like him about his issues has allowed him to heal.

    “I was told by some Marine veterans, (early) in my injury process, if you sit back and just let it eat away at you, you will never heal,” Jones said. I took that to heart and said ‘okay, I’ll make it so that doesn’t (happen),’ and it’s actually helped a lot to where it doesn’t bother me to talk about it anymore.”

    “My advice to those returning with injuries – whether physical or mental injuries – is that they need to talk to somebody,” Jones said. “They need to not be afraid to seek out help with anything. Whether it be mental issues, physical issues or both, they need to seek out that help and don’t suck it up.”

    Both Bell and Berold agree that Jones is an inspiration to others and a model Marine and that he will do well in serving others in his own way.

    “He’s a great American, I love the guy,” Berold said “He’s a great man and a role model and he had so much patience and humility. I don’t think I would have weathered what he weathered so well. I think he’ll continue doing well with the job, but personally I think he’d rather be kicking in doors ... I think he really misses that.”

    “He appreciates life,” Bell said. “If you go through traumatic things in your life, be it loss of your parents, loss of your sibling, -- those are the things that shape you and make you who you are. You can either be sour about it or be positive about it. He is a positive person and I only hope if I get in a car tomorrow, get in an accident and lose my legs, that I have the same grace and positive outlook on life that he has. He’s a great Marine. Everyone needs to know a great Marine like him, that’s for sure.”

    EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation visit their website at http://www.marine-scholars.org/ or visit their Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/marinescholar .

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 02.07.2013
    Date Posted: 04.02.2013 16:12
    Story ID: 104462
    Location: CARROLLTON, TX, US 
    Hometown: ENID, OK, US

    Web Views: 1,698
    Downloads: 1
    Podcast Hits: 0

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