The Best and Worst Times of My Life
By John Jones, USMC Veteran and AWP's Chief of Development
For some Americans, we might know a veteran. We might even know an active-duty service member. For many Americans, we have the day off work and will BBQ in the back yard, not even thinking twice about what our men and women in uniform do for us.
I want to share my story on what this day means to me. I am a Marine, and I served our country for 12 years. I would still be serving to this day if things had not drastically changed one day in Iraq.
I will get to that day, but you first need to know why I served. I come from a military family. My grandfathers served in WWII, my uncle served in Vietnam, and my cousin retired as a General in the Army. My whole family was in the Army, so I joined the Marine Corps! I was your typical teenager and wanted to leave Oklahoma after high school.
If I had gone to college, I would not have done so well. I lacked discipline and drive to study and to pick what I wanted to be. I always knew the life of a serviceman was what I wanted. I loved G.I. Joe and Rambo movies.
I was off to San Diego in 1995. What a shock that was, never being out of the Midwest. MCRD San Diego was beautiful; however, the Drill Instructors were not as attractive. I immediately fell in love with the Corps. The structure was what I needed and craved as a young man. The Marines gave me the drive to be the best that I could be. The discipline to complete tasks, the integrity to always speak the truth, and to hold the honor of country first.
My first tour of duty in the infantry took this young country boy to Japan and Thailand. In 2000 our world changed, and Terrorism was at the forefront of all our minds. From the USS Cole, the 9/11 attacks, bombings in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. I can’t speak for all, but I was ready to go to war. I was prepared to go to the big leagues of the real world. I was with the best men in the world, the men of 1st BN 7th Mar.
We fought for months in 2004. We were tired supermen walking the earth, with bad days and good days; we lost our closest friends and brothers. We did not quit; we did not forget why we were over in the big sandbox. We built the schools. We protected people from the darkness of man.
The darkest day of my life, which changed me forever, was on Jan 3, 2005. I was injured by a mine strike, a double-stacked land mine. I was blown 25-feet in the air from my vehicle 25-feet. As I came to, I did not feel any pain at the time. My men were yelling for me. I told them where I was and to stay in the truck.
They did not listen and came to my aid. It was a hard day, but they saved my life - true brothers. We were all bleeding and could barely function. Some stayed to carry out the mission, and some came with me in the chopper. I was rushed to the FIST and underwent the first of 47 surgeries over the next few months. In May of 2004, I knew that I would never be able to stay in and keep fighting. I retired in 2007, and this was another hard day. I had the fight in me still, but the body did not.
I wanted to help my fellow service members; I went into nonprofit work to help my brothers that were having a hard time. It has been 16 years, and I am still raising money for my brothers and sisters who protected our nation. So, as you are getting your Veterans Day discount at the stores and enjoying a barbeque - remember your freedom comes at a cost, the cost of lives and men and women standing up to the injustices in this world. We are the true warriors and sheepdogs of the flock. To all my fellow warriors - I will continue to fight for you and always be here for you all.
Thank you for your service and sacrifice.
With support from caring and passionate donors, America's Warrior Partnership (AWP) continues to advocate on behalf of veterans throughout the country. Please consider actioning your gratitude this Veterans Day by donating to AWP. Your generous, tax-deductible contribution will empower veterans, their families, and caregivers with holistic community care.