Finding Ninee » Sharing our parenting and special needs stories with heart and humor.

On Thankfulness, Sacrifice, Life Lived, and an Interview with Wounded Marine Joey Jones

Today, while watching my five-year-old climb steep stairs that terrify me so that he could ride the Big Slide at our local fair without me, I felt pride, fear, and thankfulness that today, with all that’s going on in the news, that my biggest worries were sunburn and diarrhea from us eating fried Oreos.

Bouncing Jumping Tucker Finding NineeMy son Tucker and I met his best friend at our neighborhood’s festival, and the boys rode the roller coaster, the swings, and, after our friends left, Tucker bounced in the air, relaxed in the grass, and we lived.

We lived a life of freedom today. One untouched by war, famine, or terror.

Tucker laying in grass Finding Ninee

My husband, on the other hand, was at work, all day, although he’d anticipated a three-hour meeting. He’s retired Army, and today works as a civilian for the Department of Defense. This week’s news has him busy.

This week’s news also has many of us angry – whether because of the injustice of Josh Duggar’s family disgustingly supporting him even though he admitted to molesting his sisters, or whether we’re exhausted by our Twitter feeds being clogged with news on Isis and captures and beheadings, what’s going on in the world is awful, scary, and full of the unknown.

So of course, a day spent in sunshine with my son is worth ten thankfuls.

As is a recent phone interview that I was blessed to have with Marine Joey Jones, who lost both of his legs defending our country. Known to his friends as “Triple J,” Jones was raised in Dalton, Georgia and enlisted in the Marine Corps after high school.

Jones Marine

During his eight years of service, he worked as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (bomb) Technician, deploying to both Iraq and Afghanistan on three combat tours. During his last deployment to Afghanistan, Jones was responsible for disarming and destroying more than 80 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and thousands of pounds of other unknown bulk explosives.

It was during that tour on August 6, 2010 when Jones stepped on and initiated an IED, resulting in the loss of both of his legs above the knee and severe damage to his right forearm and both wrists. He then spent two grueling years in recovery at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington D.C.

Tucker was born at National Naval, which has now become Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

This is about being thankful for the freedoms that I have, about being able to bathe my son when I need to without worrying about water, about a day at the local fair today, and about a man named Joey Jones who is doing Big Good Things.

Things like The Boot Campaign. Things like getting a degree at Georgetown and marrying Meg.

Speaking to Joey on the phone was a gift. His voice and attitude is inspiring and comforting. He answered each question that I had for him with honesty and integrity and an adorable southern accent and the type of respect that doesn’t piss a woman off when referred to as “M’am.” Please note that each of Joey’s responses are me paraphrasing his words, as we were on the phone, unrecorded, and I only was able to take notes.

Me: “I had a chance to watch a few of your interviews (watch part one, two, and three) and was inspired by your positive attitude. For others who may be struggling with with the long journey to healing body and mind right now, is there a piece of advice you’d give them?”

Joey: “Feel positive. Any work that you do for your Life’s work is positive and productive. We have to get past our own struggles to contribute to others’ lives. We’re only limited by ourselves. We get up every day, and focus on positive goals. We live a life of blessing by being alive. So many are not. My life means something. I get up every day and have positive goals. Live life and live it well.”

Me: “I’ve heard that some members of the military do not appreciate civilians thanking them. What’s your take on that?”

Joey: “Educate America to appreciate the sacrifices that veterans give them. Connect and realize that your freedoms are given to you by them. The number one culprit of civilians not understanding is misinformation. Blanket statements made so that society can understand doesn’t mean they know what we go through.”

Me: “Tell me a bit about the Boot Campaign and how it’s changed your perspective.”

Joey: “It was a simple idea where people make a public display by wearing combat boots. It’s a simple display of patriotism and gives the people in uniform a story. Every American is connected.”

Me: “What’s the biggest misconception or inaccurate stereotype that civilians have of the military?”

Joey: “If there are veterans who truly suffer from PTSD, society is afraid of them. But those that truly suffer are not a danger to society. They are only a danger to themselves. They do not have the energy to harm anybody but themselves. There is too much fear out there about vets with PTSD. We’re misunderstood and we’re more sensitive to what danger is than the general public.”

Me: “Given what you’ve been through as a Marine who lost both of his legs in combat, how would you feel about your son becoming a Marine?”

Joey: “I will never discourage my son from being anything that he wants to be. I hope he grows up to be what he wants; whatever he’s passionate about. It doesn’t matter to me whether he’s a Marine, an engineer, or works a trade, as long as he works to fulfill his life dream.”

Me: “Can you tell me about a situation when a stranger who wasn’t aware of your history offered kindness and empathy to you in a respectful way?”

Joey: “That’s hard to say. My family and I have been to the local Cracker Barrel several times and have yet to pay for our own meal. I’m not sure why but I have to believe that it’s not the same person each time. Maybe they know our story. These acts of kindness feel good. My wife recently paid for the person behind her at Starbucks only to learn at the window that the person in front of her paid for her. Kindness matters.”

Me: “You’ve been able to meet quite a few people over the past couple of years and got to sit next to President Obama at a dinner. Can you share a story about one of your favorite meetings?”

Joey: “I was an extra in the 2001 film Lincoln. Daniel Day Lewis and Steven Spielberg came to shoot a scene, and believed all of us to be vets, even though only a few of us were. Both of them took the time to shake our hands, and talk about supporting America’s military. Daniel Day Lewis spoke about the conflicts in Ireland and offered to give autographs to us. I didn’t want to do that because I felt like that would be selfish. We ended up speaking for hours – we talked about motorcycles, life, and he carried my artificial legs to me. We ended up exchanging contact info and stayed in touch. He came to my wedding with Meg and we’ve been friends ever since.”

JoeyfamilyDetermined to make the road to recovery easier for his fellow wounded veterans, Joey Jones started a peer visit program at Walter Reed, which provided opportunities for others recovering from life-changing injuries to mentor and encourage newly-injured patients. This led to an unprecedented year-long fellowship on Capitol Hill with the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, his contributions resulting in the creation of an annual fellowship and paving the way for other inspiring wounded warriors.

Wow, right? So today, I’m thankful. I’m thankful for my little boy having the freedom of playing at a spring fair in our neighborhood. I’m thankful that we do not live in terror, or a war zone. I’m thankful that my husband knows how to help those that are, even when I’m angry with him for having to work this weekend. I’m thankful for my son’s joy and ability to climb the Big Steps without me and I’m thankful to have been asked to interview Joey Jones, who is helping so many.

Without men and women like him, this life we live, free to slide down slides, would be one worrying about fresh water, the nearest bomb shelter, and of where our family members are.

Finding Ninee Tucker Slide Boy Happy

Happy Memorial Day to all and especially to those who protect our children and our lives through sacrifices that most of us will never understand.

What is Boot Campaign?


Ten Things of Thankful

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  • Yvonne - Lizzi has pretty much said everything I was thinking, so I’ll just add how wonderful it is to see how Tucker is progressing. I’m not surprised you feel thankful!May 25, 2015 – 5:57 amReplyCancel

    • Yvonne - PS I’d never heard of fried oreos before, and neither had my kids. I mentioned them and now of course they want to make some! 🙂May 25, 2015 – 8:53 amReplyCancel

      • Kristi Campbell - PS yesterday is the first time we’ve tried fried Oreos. They cover them in batter, deep fry them and then sprinkle powdered sugar on them. They’re pretty delicious – let me know if you and your kids try them!!May 25, 2015 – 12:34 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Tucker’s doing so well, Yvonne and thank you!May 25, 2015 – 12:33 pmReplyCancel

  • christine - What a remarkable man. My dad fought in Vietnam, and when I hear the stories of the things he endured, I just can’t fathom it. We are so, so blessed to live in a place that does not see the horrors of war. But it also means we forget that others do. We, in our safe neighborhoods and pampered lifestyle, forget that people live through atrocities we can’t even imagine. It is good to have a reminder now and again to keep ourselves in check. Thank you for sharing Joey’s story with us.May 25, 2015 – 7:04 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Christine, whenever I hear stories on what any military members have seen and been and gone through, I’m so humbled and awed. It’s almost impossible to imagine, I think, unless we’d been through it ourselves. You’re so right that we in our safe neighborhoods and pampered lives forget. Thank you so much for your comment and for reading about Joey.May 25, 2015 – 12:36 pmReplyCancel

  • Lizzi Rogers - Frist. But a very quiet and respectful frist, in the presence of a true hero.

    I strongly dislike war and the way it turns people against one another, sometimes quite arbitrarily, because there is no personal hatred but a corporate determination to do away with the other side. I’m not naive enough to think that it’s impossible for the armed forces to do good, and I know sometimes they are absolutely necessary. I *am* naive enough to still wish that the world could exist without them all, though I know it will never happen because of the power-hungriness of human nature and the insistence on imposing dominon over others.

    But it sickens me. And it sickens me that military personnel who return to their home country can often find themselves abandoned by it, having given their best for the greater good of that country, whatever the rights and wrongs of the orders they followed.

    Mr Jones – you’re doing an amazing thing. Keep doing it – keep raising awareness and helping people to connect with the humanity within military efforts.

    Kristi – your husband is doing amazing things too, I guess. And I see your quandry. Doesn’t mean I got to like that it happened or hope that balance will be restored for you. But I’m ENORMOUSLY glad for your beautiful day out with Tucker and his friend. And no. No guns. Good for you.

    And this. All of it. Wow.May 25, 2015 – 8:54 amReplyCancel

  • ivy - Wow.just wow and immense gratitudeMay 25, 2015 – 9:39 amReplyCancel

  • Nina - Wow, this is an awesome interview and read, Kristi. I think about what we have here too compared to other parts of the world. How fortunate we are that our biggest problems are often first-world problems. About the stomach flue or the car not starting. There’s definitely a lot to be thankful for.May 25, 2015 – 9:44 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Thanks, Nina! I’m so glad you came by and read it. You’re right that so often our problems are first-world problems… stomachs and cars… here’s to remembering to be thankful for our first world problems. Easier said than done at times I think!May 25, 2015 – 12:37 pmReplyCancel

  • Valerie Newman - Thank you for sharing this inspiring story of a true American hero, and a wonderful person who can have a horrible disaster and turn it into an uplifting gift to help others. Each story, one at a time, is a testimony of sacrifice and compassion.May 25, 2015 – 12:56 pmReplyCancel

  • Erin - Amazing story- and a great reminder- I love your perspective on things!!May 25, 2015 – 4:31 pmReplyCancel

  • Sarah - I’m glad you had some unfiltered joy this weekend. I’m glad you introduced me to Joey. Thank you.May 25, 2015 – 10:44 pmReplyCancel

  • Christine Carter - OH what an incredibly inspiring interview with such an amazing man and hero!! Thank you for sharing this powerful testimony to strength and victory over such a sacrifice- oh how grateful I am for men like Joey, to not only survive such tragic circumstances, but use his experience to then help so many other wounded warriors. I absolutely LOVE that you introduced us to Joey and his beautiful family on the perfect weekend to celebrate him along with ALL those fallen veterans…

    Oh, how blessed we are for each and every one of them.May 26, 2015 – 1:56 amReplyCancel

  • karen - Beautiful post and right on! Freedom is not free, those people who complain about the military and stomp on our flags…do they realize the only reason they can do that and put a video of it is because they are in America. I’d like them to try that in another country and see what happens.

    I agree with you on the nasty Duggars…the whole family has issues. Those poor girls, but they are in a cult.

    I am so glad you and Tucker got to enjoy so many wonderful things this weekend. We watched a Memorial Day parade this weekend…I got quite teary eyed. I tried to teach my son that all this is because people fought and died and people are still fighting for our freedoms.

    Thank you Joey Jones and all those who are serving and have served, and those who scarified. Thank you to your families for letting us witness your bravery.May 26, 2015 – 10:44 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Aw I love that you got teary eyed watching a Memorial Day parade – events like that always make me tear up as well. And yeah, freaking Duggars. Ugh. Thanks for stopping by to thank Mr. Jones (and all of the US Vets) for their service. You’re so right that people don’t easily realize that our freedoms are so so sacred.May 27, 2015 – 10:23 pmReplyCancel

  • Kristi - I love the way you connected the sense of peace and childlike enjoyment with the remembrance of those who assure that tranquility. Truly, we have so much to be grateful for, and we owe so much to those selfless, courageous men and women.May 26, 2015 – 1:37 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Thanks, Kristi!! I think it’s important to remember how connected all of the things really truly are… I hope you and your family had a wonderful long weekend.May 27, 2015 – 10:26 pmReplyCancel

  • Tamara - That Cracker Barrel story is so sweet! Clearly, someone is being discreet and awesome.
    I hope no one got diarrhea from fried Oreos, my dear. It was a sobering day for us of the kinds of freedoms many people can only dream about.May 26, 2015 – 4:36 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Nobody got diarrhea from the fried Oreos (and why is it that I can never ever spell diarrhea???). I love the Cracker Barrel story. And yes – our freedoms. Yes. xoMay 27, 2015 – 10:27 pmReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth - This was a terrific post, Kristi! Thank you so much for sharing this important information and do it so beautifully. A wonderfully written piece.May 27, 2015 – 10:30 amReplyCancel

  • Trashy Blog - Beautiful, and you are awesome for using your public forum to spread the word. MUCH LOVE!May 28, 2015 – 4:30 amReplyCancel

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