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Retired Staff Sgt. Johnny "Joey" Jones recounts the harrowing day in which he lost both of his legs in an unexpected IED explosion in Afghanistan. Join Jones as he reflects on his time as a United States Marine EOD technician and experience the infectious positivity that has been capturing the hearts of so many who hear his story.

Ten years ago this week I was lying on a foreign battlefield in the rural Helmand Province of Afghanistan.

Just moments before I had rendered safe or disarmed an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) or “homemade bomb” and was talking to the Marine providing security for me, Cpl. Daniel Greer.

In the blink of an eye, my life, Daniel’s life and the lives of those we love changed forever. 


As I put my helmet and ballistic glasses back on to move towards my patrol, I took a step with my right foot away from a short wall I was leaning against.

My foot landed on a buried IED, activating it and sending me cartwheeling through the air, conscious and without legs.

I landed on my back.

As the dust settled I could tell my legs were gone, just past them, I could see Cpl. Greer lying on his stomach, motionless.

I reach up to my left shoulder for a tourniquet with my right hand but my forearm was severed and my hand lay limp in my lap.

My left arm was under me and I could feel it.

As my body went into shock I realized my efforts should be directed at helping the Marines coming to retrieve us.

The rest of that day is blurry at best. -- I’ve been told some details but that’s all the memories I have.

That day, August 6th, 2010, isn’t the day I lost my legs, it’s the day I lived. It's my “Alive Day.” 

I’ve often looked back on that day with conflicting emotions. I’m grateful to have lived through it and angry about having to live with its permanent effects on my life.

Now looking back a full decade since that day I have to acknowledge some hard truths.

First, Cpl. Greer didn’t survive that bomb.

I might’ve done something different and he’d still be here but war is ruthless, indiscriminate and final. There are no second chances, looking backs or better next times. 

It's just life and death and what’s left.

Secondly, I’ll never have legs again. I’ll always feel the indescribable pain of nerves pulsing trying to find a piece of me that’s no long there.

The throbbing aching of skin and bone grinding against my prosthetics and the unrelenting frustration of needing a helping hand for the most basic of tasks.

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Lastly, the pain and emotional toll that day took on my fellow Marines, our families and friends is a difficult burden to bear. 

Yet, these truths, as painful and negative as they are, aren’t without positive outcomes and blessing.

Yes, Cpl. Greer died that day but now I owe it to him to live a full and good life. To pay his sacrifice forward and see his legacy fulfilled.

His widow is now my dear friend. His son is a sprouting young man who is the same age as mine.

His hometown, a community in East Tennessee, now embraces me as one of their own.

No, I don’t have legs anymore, but I do have a prosthetics. I have the most comfortable, and most advanced robot legs this world has ever seen.

Not only did I fully recover from my physical injuries but through the rigorous efforts of processing this tragedy, I found my way to post-traumatic growth.

I’m mentally stronger, more resilient and more grateful than I might have ever been had I not endured this fate.

Now, after ten years of not only surviving war but thriving after it, I have the most amazing family a man could ask for. I have friendships that feel like family and a career worthy of my time. 


I’ve often looked back on that day with conflicting emotions. I’m grateful to have lived through it and angry about having to live with its permanent effects on my life.

But now, ten full years later, I realize this isn’t just some amazingly unique experience I have.

No, not many of us live through war but all of us survive life.

We live through bankruptcy, divorce, cancer and losing loved ones. But we’re all still here, not just making the best of our circumstances, but making our circumstances the best life we can live.

We get up every morning and decide the pain and frustration is worth it. That the smiles on the faces of our spouses and children make life a fight worth fighting and victories worth celebrating. 

As one of a select few who is permanently attached to an “Alive Day” let me be clear -- we aren’t just the resentment of war, we are the resilience of war.


We are grateful to be alive and damn lucky to be Americans.

To each and every American struggling today to make it until tomorrow, let today be your “Alive Day” -- the day you chose to live. The day you get to look your pain and the uncertain path ahead in the eye and say, “I win.”