May 28—MARIETTA — How can you thank Johnny Joey Jones for his service? Few Americans have sacrificed as much as he has, having lost both his legs after stepping on a land mine in Afghanistan more than 10 years ago.
Jones wrestled with that question himself. The mine that took both his legs also took the life of his partner, Daniel Greer.
"I have to be understanding and cognizant of the fact that Daniel Greer gave his life in some respects for me," he said, "and the only way to honor that is to be the best version of what I can be, is to be the most contributing part of myself, to put that out first.
"So when you look at me, and you say, 'Thank you for your service,' I appreciate it. But if you want to thank me for my service, be the best whatever you are in your life with the people that care about you, and be a contributing member of society."
Jones' comments came at a recent Cobb County Republican Women's Club luncheon, where he was the keynote speaker. In a speech that was at point hilarious and poignant, Jones gave attendees a better understanding of what it means to serve and persevere.
A high school football star and top student, the Dalton native's service included eight years in the Marine Corps and combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2008, he became a explosive ordnance disposal technician, detonating the unexploded mines responsible for so many fatalities during the United States' decades-long involvement in the Middle East.
Jones said he was "pretty good" at his job.
"I'm batting 1,000, just the last one was kind of a bunt," he joked.
On Aug. 6, 2010, he and Greer had become complacent, disarming 30 mines in five days. He stepped on an IED, and woke up two days later in a hospital in Germany. He immediately asked the nurse about his friend.
"'Don't worry honey, you're going to walk again,'" he recalled her saying. "She knew what I needed to hear, even when it wasn't what I was asking."
That — telling people what they need to hear when they need to hear it — is a "superpower" everyone has, Jones told his audience. Perspective is another superpower, he continued.
People often ask him how he stays so positive, having lost both his legs.
"I say, how do you ever get negative? You have yours," he said.
Jeanie White, a member of the Republican Women's Club, said Jones' presentation was "phenomenal." She was particularly taken by his lesson on perspective.
"You can make any situation a negative or a positive," she said. "It's the mindset you put behind it. ... When I may get frustrated about simple things, I need to remember my perspective and ... how blessed I am. I have my health, I have everything."
Smyrna's Jo Novy agreed.
"It was so inspirational," she said. "He's been through so much and he still has a positive attitude."
Jones said he first went into the military for a selfish reason: to better himself.
Eventually, the reason for his continued service became about more than him.
"It's the days that don't matter that are service," he said. "It's the days in Afghanistan where nobody's ever going to know this story. But because you did the right thing even when no one was looking, that's service.
"You don't get a movie for being on guard duty, I promise," he added, the crowd laughing.