A Marine’s ride across the country
March 18, 2014
It was a beautiful day in Fallon for Rob Jones, a Marine veteran, double amputee and Paralympian who is continuing his journey to San Diego on a trip he started in October.
Jones joined the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve in 2006 as a combat engineer. He deployed in 2008 to Iraq and in 2010 to Afghanistan. While in Afghanistan pushing into Taliban territory to clear an area of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), Jones found one that changed his life forever.
Jones sustained injuries to both his legs that resulted in two amputations above the knee. He was taken to the National Naval Medical Center for the first part of his recovery and then transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for the rest of his rehabilitation. At Walter Reed Army Medical Center, doctors tailored Jones with prosthetics.
"It was challenging to relearn how to walk with two prosthetics," Jones said, "But once I had that down, I challenged myself again and relearned how to ride an upright bicycle and run. I also picked up rowing at that time too."
Jones became so intrigued with rowing he decided to train for the 2012 Paralympics. Honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in 2011, he immediately started training for the Paralympics. Hard worked paid off for Jones and his partner because they brought home the bronze medal in their event.
Jones, touched by the support he received while he was recovering, felt compelled to give back to those who gave to him, so they can continue to give to others.
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"It's simple, really. I am committed to giving back to the charitable organizations that were there for me in my darkest hours," Jones said. "They helped me stand back up on new legs, learn how to walk again, then ride a bike again, then become a world-class rower. Now, with the help of patriotic and generous Americans, I am attempting to pay it forward, so those organizations can help even more wounded soldiers, like me, in their time of greatest need."
Jones left from Bar Harbor, Maine, for his coast-to-coast journey on Oct. 14 and is estimated to arrive in San Diego in April. By the time Jones reaches his final destination, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, he will have ridden 5,400 miles, averaging 35 miles per day.
"Most people don't understand just how difficult it is to ride a bike with prostheses," Jones said. "Most people use their quads, calves and glutes to pedal, while I am only able to use my glutes. It's extremely challenging, but I'm determined to achieve my goal."
Jones is trying to raise $1 million in donations for the charities that supported him. One hundred percent of the proceeds donated to Jones' journey will go to the following charities: The Coalition to Salute America's Heroes, the Semper Fi Fund and Ride 2 Recovery.
"It's important to me that people know I'm not getting anything out of this financially," Jones said. "While I am accepting certain in-kind sponsorships from companies that want to support me, any cash they provide will go straight to the charities. Just like the funds individuals donate. This is truly all about giving back."
Ironically, Jones said he hasn't had any trouble with the police or residents until he traveled U. S. Highway 50 through Nevada.
"It's funny they call 50 the loneliest highway in the world but yet riding on it was the only time I've had the police called on me for taking up too much of the roadway," he said.
A warm welcoming reception hosted by Mayor Ken Tedford Jr. welcomed Jones in Fallon. Residents, vets, representatives from Naval Air Station Fallon and U. S. Sens Harry Reid and Dean Heller were among the several who came out to show their support for Jones mission.
Tedford presented Jones with a key to the city and read a proclamation declaring March 17, 2014, as Rob Jones day.
"Rob's effort is important on many levels," Tedford said. "He's bringing awareness on the roll of our armed forces protecting us everyday … shining light on the price our soldiers pay standing post while serving their country and perhaps most importantly providing an example of the human spirit that searches for meaning in life and strives to fulfill it. Rob is a shining example of bravery and unwavering determination of the human spirit."
The show of support kept coming from the guest speakers. Rear Admiral Andy Lewis, commander of the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center shed some words of encouragement.
"Rob is a testament of Americas next greatest generation, a generation of selfless heroes," Lewis said. "Rob has graced us with his presence to teach us all of the kind of young heroes this country continues to produce."
Jones thanked the crowd and speakers after the kind words that were said about him.
"Thank you all for your support," Jones said. "I've enjoyed about as much as I can going up and down mountains in Nevada. The people here have been really great; I've gotten a really nice reception through out the state and here in Fallon. We've been allowed to stay in the Comfort Inn for three nights free of charge. It shows you how patriotic and appreciative this town is and I think this state in general. I'd like to thank everyone who came out to honor me and support my cause, I really appreciate it."