Author Archives: johnnyjosephjones

Be the impossible. 

I read these tweets and messages. I read everyone of them. People take time out of their days to say how inspiring I am, how they are dealing with some terrible disease and seeing me smile as if nothing ever happened to me gives them hope. Women write me that they have the strength to leave their drunken/abusive husbands, men write to tell me they finally feel guilty enough about their own bad habits to lose the weight, kids write me (probably at their parents behest) to tell me that I’m a hero and they want  to be a Marine when they grow up. 
To them, I’m Johnny Joey, Staff Sgt Jones who took apart almost 100 IEDs, (it swells just a bit each time). To them I feel no pain, have no regret, and see life as nothing less than a beautiful gift… a gift not to be taken for granted. When they see me, standing, smiling, succeeding, they see the impossible. And we all want to be a part of something impossible. 

Perhaps that’s the true irony. What they don’t see is absolutely possible, it’s disappointingly normal and sad. They don’t see the decisions I have to make every day: 

Do I go to the gym or complete a chore today? Because I can’t stand the pain of being in my legs after a work day long enough to do both. 

Do I walk to the bathroom right now or hold it in a bit longer because it’s so damn uncomfortable to piss when nerve pains burn like electricity through my nubs. 

Do I go get lunch or just stay hungry until I get home because I can’t get to my truck quick enough to make it a fast trip, and the aggravation of jamming my bulky legs under my makeshift hand controls will surely put me in bad mood for the next three hours. 

Do I ask for help or do I do without because I’ve asked for help three times this week already. 

Do I smile and say good morning or keep waking to my desk because -“god damn this sore on my right nub hurts with every step I take”. 

…They don’t see those pathetically obvious decisions, the ones that reveal who I really am, a crippled war vet who spends as much time contemplating the pros and cons of my next movement as I do smiling and telling people to carry on. 

People don’t see them because I keep those decisions firmly concealed in a special place in my mind. They don’t see the utter frustration when I want to get dressed in 20 minutes and it takes me 45. They don’t see the embarrassment of coming into work 15 minutes late when I’ve been up for 3 hours but had to wait on a morning cocktail laxative to allow me to go to the restroom before I put my legs on because I can’t go once they’re on. They don’t see me finding short cuts through the grass because every step makes a difference. They don’t see me die a little inside every time I see someone running along the street… because God I miss running so bad. They don’t see me spend 30 minutes picking just the right combination of clothes because my hips are 4 inches wider with my legs on. They don’t see me close my eyes and pretend I’m climbing up stairs when I get on the elevator to travel up one floor. 

People don’t see any of these things. They don’t see them because I don’t let them. They don’t see them because people deserve to see the impossible every now and then. Some, deserve to feel like they can overcome the truly impossible task ahead of them if only for a brief moment or day. That’s who I am. I’m their motivation, inspiration and disbelief. I’m a reason to work a little harder, I’m their “if he can do it, I can do it” and they deserve nothing less. 
My life was wagered in service to my country on April 25th 2005. That’s a promise I intend to keep. The hollow pleasure I would get from being honest about my own pain, discomfort and frustration is unimportant compared to the amount of hope I may bring a stranger who sees me smiling, standing, succeeding… impossibly happy and unshaken. My life is not mine, my life is more. I lived when I should have died and for that I know my place. 
Courage escapes me, just as it escapes us all, in the face of the impossible. But the gapping hole courage leaves while scouring away, is filled with purposed pain. Such pain can motivate a man to do anything, even make him Courageous. For those I don’t know, for those who I’ll never see but need me to be me, I’ll suffer this pain, this impossible will seem easy and I’ll carry on.. standing, smiling, succeeding.  

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Song for her

Chorus I like unpainted faces, and pony tail hair  

I want 

Loose fit’n sweaters, 

Man, 

I can’t help but stare 

God help me I love her.. 

Just the way… God made her 
Verse 1

Lounging on the couch

She’s had a long day at work 

Her legs propped on mine 

her face buried in a book 
I can’t take my eyes off her

So sexy so sweet 

Looking over her glasses 

Catching me, catch a peek  
That scar under her right eye 

And the freckles on her nose 

God help me, I love her 

From her head down to her toes

Baby don’t do your nails,

Your hair looks just right

Don’t you dare put fake lashes 

On those beautiful green eyes 

Chorus

I like unpainted faces, and pony tail hair  

Give me,

Loose fit’n sweaters, 

Baby, 

I can’t help but stare 

God help me I love her.. 

Just the way… God made her
Verse 2 

I don’t want you in high heels 

Or a tight fit’n dress

I don’t need you wearing jewelry 

You don’t need to impress  

Let’s Wrap up in a blanket 

Lay your head on my chest 

just laying beside me 

You look your best 

(Bridge) 

Yea yea 

You might think I’m crazy, When I say just be lazy But believe me baby, I just want to see [you]

Hidden from this world, Is my beautiful girl Baby give it a whirl, And let me show [you]

Girl Those little imperfections 

Those bare faced expressions… 

Baby can’t you s -e -e
God help me I love you, just the way God made you 

God made you, baby, 

He made you beautiful to me
God made you for me

___

I love your unpainted face, your pony tail hair 

Wrap up in my sweater 

Baby I can’t help but stare 

God help me I love you 

Just the way God made you.. 

Saved Me 

I’m a miserable heap of success As I lay watching the late sun rise 

I can’t even be the best of who I am 

So I search for reasons to be alive  
I’m a perfect example 

of what happens when

One falls dying, finding peace

 on a needless bloody battlefield  
I was happy and content, 

breathing my last breathe 

Life seemed much harder 

Than surrendering to death 
I still remember him saying 

“Sgt you’ll be alright” 

Yelling give me morphine

I pulled his face down to mine 
I botched the Lord’s Prayer 

I relayed my last goodbyes 

Thought I’d find heaven or hell 

Looking into a young hero’s eyes
Now I live in eulogy of 

The man I one was 

Deceiving those who love me 

I died there in a pool of my own blood 
I wasn’t fighting to live, 

I was fighting to let go 

But when they fight to keep you alive 

You wake up broken and alone 

Humble beginnings 

Chris 
My relationship with Chris and Keith started in middle school. Chris and I had classes together, we were friends but not best of friends. I first met Chris when his dad Jeff McDonald coached our football team in 6th grade. Jeff had taught my sister 11 years before and became a hometown hero when he commanded the local Marine Corps Reserve Artillery Unit, Mike Battery, from Chattanooga, TN on their deployment to Desert Storm. Jeff and his unit found the first hidden batch of SCUD Missiles and even after he left the Marine Corps to teach smart ass kids like us, the Corps never left him. Chris was popular, exceptionally smart and it was obvious his dad had engrained work ethic in his personality, but Chris always seem just a little on edge. We were brought into a program for smart kids and went on a trip to Washington DC, we had fun prank calling the chaperones in the hotel, talking to the pretty girls from other schools and being first class idiots in our Nation’s Capitol. It as a blast. When we returned to school I thought I knew Chris pretty well, one day while on break i saw him go into the last stall of the restroom so I hid behind the exit door, when Chris walked by I jumped out and scared him, Chris responded with a shot to my nose, as the blood poured he looked at me, mortified as his actions and walked away, without saying a word. That was Chris, perhaps even he slightly afraid of what he was capable of. 
When we left middle school, going into our freshman year, Chris moved to a private academy for high school. Less than a few hours south, Darlington was in the same town of Rome, GA that his grandparents lived. Chris spent two years there, and after a few instances where Chris and the Dean had seemingly opposing views of what was or wasn’t appropriate behavior, Chris moved back home to attend high school with us. Keith and Chris grew up together and Keith was a runt. Chris always felt the need to stick up for Keith, but in that two years he was away, Keith shot up and was pretty much the same size as Chris. 
Keith and I weren’t automatically friends, but we did know each other. You see my first try at having a girl friend came a few weeks into my freshman year. Most of my middle school days I was slightly over weight and popular on comedic merit alone. But over the summer going into high school I too shot up, I grew a few inches, and lost a dozen or more pounds of fat. It was a simple plan really, my dad had me carrying brick and block 8 hours a day in 90-110 degree heat; replace Coke, the nectar of the south, with water and boom a brand new adolescent body to begin high school in. The girl I met at freshman orientation lived 30 minutes across town, and next door to Keith’s mom’s boyfriend. While I was processing preteen thoughts of love on long phone calls, Keith was sneaking into her house exploring other, more physical, teenage activities. This was the first of a half dozen girls Keith and I would cross each other on until finally the cycle came to our abrupt end our junior year. 
Chris moved back and immediately reconnected with his two closest friends, Keith the quiet wrestler who’d recently grown into his body and me, the class clown and football player. By this time the worst, of many girls, had really driven a wedge between Keith and I. I had briefly dated an under classman named Meghan and she had found admiration for the first popular football player to take notice. I quickly moved on and she began to seriously date Keith. Being a quick learner she used me, a guy she already knew Keith didn’t like, to make Keith jealous. One Friday afternoon she had stirred the pot well and had Keith and I both believing a fight was imminent. That evening Keith picked her and two other kids up in his Toyota corolla and they headed across town to a basketball game. While driving on a twisting road his car drifted onto some gravel, he over corrected and that car shot head on into a large utility pole. No, not a light pole but the huge wooded monuments erected with heavy cranes designed to withstand hurricanes and tornadoes. The pole broke halfway up and fell back onto the car. By the time I got a call from Chris, all four had me rushed to the local hospital. Megan, Keith’s spiteful girlfriend had her face literally crushed by the pole, Jennifer and Scott, the two in the back each suffered skull and face fractures and Keith had his skin lacerated down to his skull and was stepped shut. After being released from

Intensive care Megan, in a medicated stooper, began asking for me. She wore a funky pink hair tie on her wrist I had given her in a humorous moment months before, and when I arrived at her room Keith was standing beside her holding her hand. I stopped at the door and Keith just said, “no man, it’s ok, it’s about her right now.” I could see the guilt and pain in his eyes. He walked out and I stood by Megan until she pulled her pink hair tie off, places it in my hand and said, “thanks for coming, you weren’t a bad first but I’m ok now” I hadn’t then and haven’t since had an ex girl friend re-break up a nonexistent relationship in such a subtle yet dramatic way. I walked out of the room and back towards my truck in the parking lot when Keith and Chris stopped me. Chris looked at me, punched my chest and said, “damn dude stealing a guys girlfriend in intensive care? That’s dirty” I looked at Keith behind him, squatted on s makeshift set of cinder block steeps smoking a cigarette, he took a drag and looked up… Staples in head, my heart was pounding with adrenaline… Without saying a word Keith began to chuckle his iconic slow laugh and in that moment the three of us formed a bond that would literally last a life time. 
For the next several years we were inseparable. We did everything, good and bad, together with the exception of Keith’s wresting season and Chris’ baseball season. Chris and I played football together. He was a 145 pound fullback averaging 70 yards a game and I was a 160 pound offensive line and and tightened… His lead blocker. Keith was on the drumline and we were brothers. At the end of our senior year Chris wasn’t selected for all area first team and he broke down. One day I noticed Chris didn’t make it to class. By the time I got home Keith called to tell me Chris has gotten drunk, lined his trophies up and shot them through a wall in his parents house. The cops showed up in time for Chris to come to the door holding a shotgun and quickly reminded him of reality. Keith and I didn’t see or hear from him for two weeks, and then… He showed back up at school one day with a fresh haircut and new attitude. He’d been at some rehab facility and came back with a fresh proscription of Zoloft. Keith and I hated it. Chris just wasn’t the same. I had once picked him up with keith at his house and sat on his bed while he finished getting ready, we left and halfway across town Chris bursted with anxiety and told me to take him back. As soon as we pulled into his driveway he ran inside, fixed his bed and came back out to my truck… he acted As if nothing at all was weird about hat had just happened…. The signs were there when he was young we were just too inexperienced and focused on girls to see them. Chris was also the over achiever, when we graduated he went away to North Georgia College in their ROTC program…Keith snd I settled for the local community college. While Chris was away at school, things for me and Keith were pretty simple. For a short while we moved into my sisters boyfriend’s vacant condo and shortly after that were abruptly evicted by said boyfriend when he saw the state at which we left it. I got a job driving a forklift for one of the hundreds of carpet mills in our town and Keith worked construction with his uncle. My high school sweetheart, Meg, was in her senior year and dumped me around this time. With the ambitious one away and the expectations of a girlfriend gone; Keith and I were left to our childish vices. They say military service is for kids who are too dumb to got to college or get in trouble, for me and Keith it was a last chance to not piss our lives away in a struggling one horse town. 
The first time I talked to my recruiter, I was smoking pot by a creek on the way to my last month of high school. Keith had already been talking to them, it made sense, his dad was absent because he’d followed his Airforce career to Arkansas. And Keith’s only father figure, his uncle nicknamed Feller, was a Marine in the 80’s. Chris was following his dad, his dad’s dad, and even his great grandfather’s footsteps in ROTC and I, well I was just a country boy. My grandfathers share cropped logged and moonshined their way through the big wars and my dad missed draft by a year. I had no familial legacy beyond working hard with my hands. I had, however, already shattered family tradition by graduating high school. Back to smoking pot by the creek.
My dad had turned from cocaine and chicken fighting in the 80’s to moonshine and masonry work as a safer way to “bootleg” after I was born. It was a compromise of sorts between my Johnny Cash song of a life dad and text book result of a life of domestic abuse mom. One was a natural born hell raiser and the other was naturally born into more than her share of it. So thats what made me, an outlaw and a holy roller. My dad was the oldest of three boys, Joseph Edgar Jones born to Johnny Edgar son of Juney Hercules Jones. Don’t laugh, his other grandfather was Joseph Lightner, a WW2 Marine vet who’d slit a man’s throat, burned the same man’s house to the ground and then shot and killed two men in the back when the robbed his moonshine. A crime deemed self-defense when you run moonshine for the sheriff. So Juney Hercules the share cropper who’d once knock a mule out cold with a closed fist to the face was a pretty tame lineage. My dad, or Big Joey as the called him was a head short that his dad and two baby brothers, and Napoleon complex to boot. He was alway quiet, especially in a tense situation, but when he had the urge, he could make lightning strike on a adversary and developed a reputation of being the meanest, toughest 5’8″ son of a bitch in town. He was destined to be an alcoholic from birth. He had an adolescents of tragedy and was dad more often than big brother at too young of an age. He only knew hard work and disappointment, and that was enough. Perhaps no one suffered from his demons more than my mother, Joyce Marine. She came from a big family up from Florida to Alabama and eventfully to our textile rich boom town of Dalton, GA. For my

people In the 70’s and 80s, Dalton promised an industrious life with fair wages and overtime a plenty. For them, that was enough to come a runnin-as we’d say in the dwindling foothills of the Appalachia. She was all but sold to the highest bidder at 15. He was older and her first time was her wedding night, which also provided her first child, my sister Marsha. So at 16 Joyce Marine had…
To be continued…

My confession: PTSD

I have a confession:As most of you know, I lost my legs in 2010 when an IED detonated under me while rendering safe dozens of IEDs on Operation Roadhouse 2 in Safar Bazaar in the Garmsir district of Helmand Province Afghanistan. That was the climatic ending to a rather tough and active deployment. During the nearly 6 months there we worked nearly 80 IEDs, dealt with deaths and amputations among our ranks and yes, even some Infighting between my teammate and I. 
My injury also resulted in the death of a Marine Engineer, Cpl Daniel Greer, who stood just a few steps too close to me. 
When I returned home, every aspect of my life had changed, with a one year old son I didn’t know, and a newly reunited girlfriend I began my recovery feeling the weight of responsibilities I’d never known. My family was both my necessary support, and most difficult task at hand. I felt as if I never had the chance to be vulnerable, weak, uncertain or negative. How could I? These people were barely holding it together themselves, at least I could pretend to be positive and happy. 
Somewhere along the way that facade turned into a self motivated beacon of inspiration. I fed off of the opportunities to motivate and mentor the Marines around me, I escaped my own misfortune by focusing on helping others. So.. Here comes the confession. 

Sitting here, 5+ years after being injured. I’ve neglected my own health, I’ve negated the effects of PTSD by saying, “I was one of the lucky ones..”
Well, that much is true, but not because I escaped the mental wounds, but because I craftily maneuvered through them as though they never existed, all the while preaching how such a wound shouldn’t be ignored, misunderstood or allowed to destroy a hero’s life. Yet, here I sit, thinking of all the ways I’m awkward, fundamentally angry, nervous in any public setting. I don’t drink because I’m scared to death of being vulnerable, I don’t do bars, concerts or large crowds where alcohol is served because I truly do not trust my fellow citizenry. I forget the simplist of tasks and need constant assurance the people around me aren’t angry, dissatisfied or bothered… Mainly because I’m almost always those three things.. But never allowed to show it. 
I can’t say with certainty I have what is known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But I can certainly tell you I’m not the same, I rarely feel sane and I have almost every traditional symptom. But what I can tell you, what you must know, believe, and digest with and open mind and ready heart is that I do not suffer from those symptoms. No, I am NOT a victim. I survive those symptoms. Everyday I wake up, hurting, barely rested, nervous, skeptical and afraid. But I wake up. I get up and I get going. I tell myself what I need to hear. In the pouring water of a shower I cry when I need to, but I turn off the negativity with my faucet and continue on. I am here for a purpose, part of that purpose is healing myself, taking care of those I love and am responsible for, and maybe, just maybe sharing my own experiences with those who could use the same motivation and perspective I convince myself to accept every morning. This life isn’t easy, and I’ve seen little evidence to believe it was meant to be. But it’s life. And I’m damn fortunate and grateful for it. I need you, and I believe many of you need me. It’s what we are as humans. Thanks for hearing me out and take from this moment of vulnerability a spark of motivation to continue on, happily.

Confession: PTSD 

I have a confession:
As most of you know, I lost my legs in 2010 when an IED detonated under me while rendering safe dozens of IEDs on Operation Roadhouse 2 in Safar Bazaar in the Garmsir district of Helmand Province Afghanistan. That was the climatic ending to a rather tough and active deployment. During the nearly 6 months there we worked nearly 80 IEDs, dealt with deaths and amputations among our ranks and yes, even some Infighting between my teammate and I. 

My injury also resulted in the death of a Marine Engineer, Cpl Daniel Greer, who stood just a few steps too close to me. 

When I returned home, every aspect of my life had changed, with a one year old son I didn’t know, and a newly reunited girlfriend I began my recovery feeling the weight of responsibilities I’d never known. My family was both my necessary support, and most difficult task at hand. I felt as if I never had the chance to be vulnerable, weak, uncertain or negative. How could I? These people were barely holding it together themselves, at least I could pretend to be positive and happy. 

Somewhere along the way that facade turned into a self motivated beacon of inspiration. I fed off of the opportunities to motivate and mentor the Marines around me, I escaped my own misfortune by focusing on helping others. So.. Here comes the confession. 
Sitting here, 5+ years after being injured. I’ve neglected my own health, I’ve negated the effects of PTSD by saying, “I was one of the lucky ones..”

Well, that much is true, but not because I escaped the mental wounds, but because I craftily maneuvered through them as though they never existed, all the while preaching how such a wound shouldn’t be ignored, misunderstood or allowed to destroy a hero’s life. Yet, here I sit, thinking of all the ways I’m awkward, fundamentally angry, nervous in any public setting. I don’t drink because I’m scared to death of being vulnerable, I don’t do bars, concerts or large crowds where alcohol is served because I truly do not trust my fellow citizenry. I forget the simplist of tasks and need constant assurance the people around me aren’t angry, dissatisfied or bothered… Mainly because I’m almost always those three things.. But never allowed to show it. 

I can’t say with certainty I have what is known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But I can certainly tell you I’m not the same, I rarely feel sane and I have almost every traditional symptom. But what I can tell you, what you must know, believe, and digest with and open mind and ready heart is that I do not suffer from those symptoms. No, I am NOT a victim. I survive those symptoms. Everyday I wake up, hurting, barely rested, nervous, skeptical and afraid. But I wake up. I get up and I get going. I tell myself what I need to hear. In the pouring water of a shower I cry when I need to, but I turn off the negativity with my faucet and continue on. I am here for a purpose, part of that purpose is healing myself, taking care of those I love and am responsible for, and maybe, just maybe sharing my own experiences with those who could use the same motivation and perspective I convince myself to accept every morning. This life isn’t easy, and I’ve seen little evidence to believe it was meant to be. But it’s life. And I’m damn fortunate and grateful for it. I need you, and I believe many of you need me. It’s what we are as humans. Thanks for hearing me out and take from this moment of vulnerability a spark of motivation to continue on, happily.

Believe in me. 

When someone asks me what I believe in, I stutter. I don’t have a cookie cutter answer, well pondered and polished for consumption. What do I believe in? I guess for most people it’s simple: heaven and hell. With an obvious affection for the former. But for me, well I believe in what I’ve seen. I’ve never seen God, paradise, or heavenly gates. I’ve never felt content, eternal or even redeemed. I don’t know sanctuary, salvation or security. I don’t know heaven. My life, however, is a beautiful thing. I’ve lived when I should’ve died, I lived when others died. Ive starred directly into the eyes of a man Far more selfless and honorable than I could fathom as the last moment of consciousness left his soul. I’ve watched a fearless warrior become a tired memory. I’ve seen a drunk get violent each night of my life, before I even knew right and wrong. I’ve spent nights praying for God to fix what I didn’t know was wrong. I’ve found love at the moment of loss; left wondering why it wasn’t there before. I have a habitual need to self destruct. A rabid dog kept at bay only by the responsibilities I have to my family. I’ve wrapped my brother’s cold dead corpse in a proud blue uniform on a stainless steel pedestal at the local interment home after his weaknesses culminated in one final moment of irrational judgment. I’ve known to it’s fullest extent; wondering why. I hate people for their ignorance, and praise them for their generosity. I know pain, regret, shame and guilt, but I don’t know heaven. I’ve been beaten, defeated, wounded and forgotten. I know hell. For me, hell isn’t a scare tactic to keep my on the straight and narrow.

No, it’s a tangible thing. It has a taste, smell, sight, sound and touch. Yet, I’ve survived. The idea of heaven, the memories of hell, I’m content with here and now. So, when someone asks, “what do you believe in?” I simply respond, “I believe in me.”