Marine and Paralympian Rob Jones Found a Way to Turn Adversity into Accomplishment

When Rob Jones enlisted into the United States Marine Corps in 2006, he was a sophomore in college. He felt that he was at a point in his life that he needed structure and discipline, and that was something he felt he couldn’t get in a classroom. “I was just kind of struggling in college…

When Rob Jones enlisted into the United States Marine Corps in 2006, he was a sophomore in college. He felt that he was at a point in his life that he needed structure and discipline, and that was something he felt he couldn’t get in a classroom.

“I was just kind of struggling in college with the direction I was going in,” he admitted. “I felt like there were pieces missing from my life. I was lonely, I wasn’t doing well in my classes, and I felt there was something missing.”

A friend of his had enlisted during this same time period. That prompted him to do research about what it took to serve. He found the Marine Corps’ website, which had images that enticed him even more.

“There were guys crawling through the mud, firing artillery, shooting rifles, and marching around in dress blue uniforms. That made even more curious to go to the library and check out a book about it.”

The book, Brotherhood of Heroes struck a chord. Rob Jones followed his friend into enlisting in the Corps. He would go on to become a combat engineer whose primary task was to detect improvised explosive devices (IED) as well as explosive breaching.

Courtesy of Rob Jones

On July 22, 2010, Jones was working and found an IED. However, It detonated and exploded on him, resulting in extreme lower-body injuries. Both of Jones’ legs had to be amputated above the knee. For most, that type of trauma would be near impossible to focus away from. Jones’ mind, though, went to a different place. He was more concerned about his mother’s reaction than his own.

“I just had this thought that my mother was going to really be upset about me being wounded,” he says. “I asked my squad leader to see if he can find a funny hat for me in the hospital so that when I got to Walter Reed, I could have the hat on and make my mom laugh,” he said. “They couldn’t find one, but when I got there, she had gotten one somehow.”

Jones would spend the rest of his military career in Walter Reed Hospital recovering and preparing for post-military life. He retired in December 2011 with a Purple Heart, the Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal, among other honors. The physical toll of his injuries went without saying, but the mental aspect of his recovery was crucial. He found inspiration to carry on outside of himself.

Courtesy of Rob Jones

“I think it was recognizing that there were people relying on me to be okay both mentally and physically,” he explained. While his active career in service may have been over, Jones was determined to not only stay active with his body, but be even more active than most.

“Since I have retired, my body is my tool for living a life of meaning,” he said. “I continued my service to my fellow veterans by creating a story they could use to stay in the fight.”

In Jones’ mind, that meant doing more than simply riding a bike in a race or going on a long-distance run. He had to take these fitness tasks to as high of a level as possible. One of those endeavors was rowing. Less than one year after leaving Walter Reed, Jones qualified for the 2012 Paralympic Games, where his team finished with a bronze medal. He moved on to cycling in 2014. In spite of having prosthetic legs, he used a regular bike and completed a supported cross-country ride that took almost 5,200 miles of total distance.

“I started in October 2013 and finished in April 2014. I went from Bar Harbor, MN, to Camp Pendleton in California,” he said. At the time he was the first double amputee to complete a cross-country bike ride. To date, there has not been a second to do so.

He may have saved his greatest athletic achievement for last. In 2017, he ran in 31 marathons in 31 days in 31 different cities. Running 26.2 miles nonstop is an achievement in itself. Rob Jones ran a total of 812.2 miles in a month.

“I thought doing it as a double amputee would be a good spin on it,” he revealed. “I wanted to do it in different cities to get as many eyes on it as possible. It would stay in the public eye for a good amount of time.”

He called this his personal choice for his greatest athletic achievement. While people that support him may have their own favorites, he looks back fondly at everything he did since he began his personal pursuit of physical excellence.

“The month of marathons was probably the most impressive because of all the logistic challenges of it. But I am proud of all of it.”

As if that wasn’t enough, the Virginia native also competed in numerous races, tower climbs, and the Marine Corps 50K. Nowadays, Jones is still pretty active, but it isn’t for another fitness challenge, it’s for greater quality of life and self-responsibility so he can play a major role in support of his family, which is the most important reason of all for him.

“My body is the main tool that I rely on to be the husband and father that my family needs and deserves,” he stated. “It is vital that it stays as fit as possible.”

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This story originally appeared on: Muscle & Fitness - Author:vkim

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