Marine Corps Sgt. Johnny Jones was taking a break after clearing an area of buried IEDs.
The EOD technician was leaning against a wall in the desert heat, trying to cool down after a long day. So far, so good.
His next move almost proved deadly. As he stepped away from the wall to continue the mission, he stepped on a non-metallic pressure switch.
There was a huge explosion and when it was over, Johnny’s legs were gone. The blast also injured his forearm and both his wrists. Johnny remained conscious as Marines rushed to his aid.
This was Johnny’s second deployment to the Mideast. He served in Iraq on an earlier tour. He had been in Afghanistan for six months when he was injured. He is 25 years old.
Once he was sent to Bethesda, Johnny underwent nearly 30 surgeries in his first few months home. Once he was able to begin outpatient therapies he and his girlfriend Meg moved into housing provided by the hospital.
The cramped one-room quarters was difficult for the couple and even more so when Johnny’s 2-year-old son, Braiden came to visit. A family member regularly makes the 10-hour trek from the little boy’s home in Georgia to Washington D.C.
Though the family was grateful for the visits, adding a toddler and another family member to the one-room home was taxing and stressful. The family often had to pay for a hotel room in the expensive capital city just so there would be enough room for everyone.
The family needed a place where they could have stress-free visits and Jones could learn to walk again.
Operation Homefront gave them both.
Now, the family lives at the Operation Homefront Village near the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where Johnny receives treatment.
Now, Braiden has space to run and play with Johnny when he comes to visit. The toddler has his own room where he can nap and enjoy his father again.
After six months of therapy and practice, Johnny is walking on two prosthetic legs. Currently, he is serving as an intern for the house committee on Veterans Affairs though he plans on staying in the Marines once he is finished with his recovery.
Still, the internship has influenced him. Johnny is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in political science and thinks one day he may become involved in government and politics.
Until then, the family is rebuilding and planning for the future with the help of Operation Homefront. Meg says they have taken advantage of the financial coaching offered at the village and are excited to plan for the future.
Johnny calls the village one of the best assistance programs he has encountered as a veteran.
“It’s a wonderful thing to have somebody providing for us so we can spend time with our family,” Johnny said. “It makes me feel like a real person instead of a patient.”