Everyone has a birthday, but not everyone has an alive day. Staff Sergeant Johnny Joey Jones does, and that day is August 6, 2010. This week began with 300 US Marines being dispatched to a town in Afghanistan to take control of it.
"We identified one building that we had to take, which meant we had to take the whole village," Jones said. His job was to work as an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) technician, which meant he had to search for bombs that might have been placed underground. They later found out that the enemy had hidden over 200 bombs before leaving the city. After five days of clearing buildings and roads, they made great progress. Then, on August 6, Jones was awakened by reserve engineer Daniel Greer, who informed him that he was needed to inspect a building.
"I got up, got dressed, it was literally across the street from the site we had set up," he said. They found a new type of improvised explosive device (IED) and each new type of weapon had to be reported and documented so that their allies and comrades would be aware of it.
"I was getting people to help me and I stepped on an IED I didn't know was there."
Jones lost both legs above the knee in the blast and sustained damage to both wrists and right forearm. Greer lost his life. While the mission would eventually be completed, Jones wrestled with his own issues. He was immediately rushed to seek medical attention and his only focus for the future was recovery and rehabilitation.
“The physical healing of closing the holes, reattaching the muscles and everything else took about three months. Then I went to Walter Reed (hospital) to learn how to use the prostheses.”
In February 2011, he was able to walk with prosthetic limbs, and in July of the same year he was working on Capitol Hill. At some point during his recovery he was the subject of a feature on ABC Nightline and he shared a statement that showed just how mentally strong he really was.
"I told them I didn't lose both my legs. I was given a second chance at life.”
Johnny Joey Jones
Johnny Joey Jones has expanded his influence nationwide
Jones may not have known what his destiny would be when he joined the Marines, but he knew he was destined for something other than his hometown. Jones grew up in the American rthwest and his family was no stranger to military service. His great-grandfather was a Marine and he had six uncles who were drafted into the military. He said they didn't discuss much about what they were doing during that time, but they knew they were at least in the military. Jones had no big plans to join the Marines or any other branch of the military, but two of his friends had fathers who were in the military. One was on active duty with the Arkansas Air Force, the other was their football coach and Reserve Marine.
"I was influenced by these guys, and when I graduated from high school, Chris went to college, Keith went to work, and I was trying to figure out what to do," he recalls. "Keith actually recruited me to join the Marine Corps with him."
It wasn't just her influence that helped him make that decision. Neither of his parents graduated from high school, yet they did everything they could to make sure he made it. Jones saw this as a gift he could make even more of.
“There was more to achieve for me than doing an hourly job. The Marine Corps became my way of doing more.”
In April 2005, Jones made his way to boot camp, but by 2007 he was already in a security role on his first tour in Iraq. When he returned from that mission, he applied to be an EOD technician and got the job. After graduating from school for the position, he was sent to Afghanistan in March 2010 where he spent his Alive Day.
Johnny Joey Jones uses the weight room for physical and mental strength
Despite everything he had been through up to that point, Jones was never satisfied and remained selfless. He strives to surpass himself and others. He found that over 50 technicians had been sent to Walter Reed, and he knew 13 of them by their first names. He believed that the harder you work for yourself, the harder you work for others. He wanted to do whatever he could to offer them his support so they could progress as he did. He also participated in a mentoring program, which he says helped keep him connected to what he called "the other end of the tunnel."
"Personally, I wanted to visit these guys and tell them what's in store, especially as you're moving post physical recovery. Within the first few months of using prosthetics, I realized there was something to do and that I could be proactive in showing the guys and gals what they had to offer.”
Another component that helped Jones both mentally and physically was training and fitness. He combined training with hard work in a good way. He recalled that his father worked as a bricklayer and they were poor and had to work a lot to make ends meet. He doesn't train to achieve a specific look, but to be prepared for the challenges ahead.
Jones said, "There's only one way to get things done, and that's to do it." It was part of my culture growing up. You didn't have to look good, but you better be strong."
He wasn't introduced to the weight room until he played football in high school, but he immediately felt a strong connection and that connection remains with him to this day.
“I've always found that to be vital to my mental health. If I didn't train for a week, I didn't feel right."
Johnny Joey Jones is a voice for veterans
Jones' story and his work to make a difference have inspired many Americans. Jones has been a writer for Fox News since 2019 and has hosted numerous programs on the network and Fox Nation. Jones didn't expect to have a platform of this scale to make a difference, but as long as he has it, he wanted to make a difference.
"It is very important to me to stand up for other people in the same position as me," he explained. “I became a member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs and made the right people listen. From then on I had the opportunity to be on various events and I met a Fox producer named Jen Williams who is no longer here. She had produced a show and invited me to be part of it."
Thanks to this first opportunity, Jones has been active in raising awareness on a variety of issues and advocating for veterans and families. He wanted to shine a spotlight on others who made their own great commitments and sacrifices for freedom. In his new book, Unbroken Bonds of Battle, he tells the stories of other veterans like Staff Sergeant Nate Boyer, Captain (retd) Wesley Hunt and Gold Star Wife Stacy Greer on behalf of their late husbands. His goal for the book is the same as everything he's done before: to make a difference for those who need it badly.
“We all need help and inspiration. I realized that the story I had to tell wasn't about what happened to me, but about the people who helped me make it happen. The guardian angels I didn't know were angels back then, the people without whom I couldn't have told a story. They all had a profound impact on my life and they all helped me.”
Johnny Joey Jones wants people reading this book to think beyond what's on the pages. The people featured had a profound impact on him, which is why he wanted to help tell the world their stories, but he hopes the reader will read through and wonder who these ten people would be in their lifetime.
"You may not know them as well as others do, but the way you know them is and should be very important to you."
You can order Unbroken Bonds of Battle from Fox News Books.
Follow Jones on Instagram @johnny_joey.