Originally published 11.15.11
During the last many years, first in Afghanistan and later in Iraq, the all-volunteer American military has fought bravely and successfully against a ruthless enemy willing to commit suicide, willing to kill women and children, and willing to use roadside bombs, booby traps and civilian snipers.
The cost has been high in blood and treasure.
The number of American wounded totals 41,583 according to the Department of Defense. Total
KIA:5,844 (as of 11.15.11).
One wounded warrior and his fellow Marines exemplify the finest in honor, courage and duty, demonstrating that catastrophic injuries need not be the end of the story.
Garrett Jones, a veteran of hundreds of combat operations, was on foot patrol in July 2007 in Iraq with Company E, 2d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, when a blast from an improvised explosive device almost killed him.
Here is the actual enemy video of the attack.
Nathan Handville is the second Marine you see and Garrett Jones is the third in line. The Marine at the head of the column is Rob Pofahl.
Thanks to the quick work of his fellow Marines, Garrett’s life was saved but he lost his left leg. In order to radio a chopper for evacuation, three Marines had to run back to the command post under fire while others tended to Garrett who only had moments before he would have bled out. Rob Pofahl is the man who came to Garrett’s aid to apply the tourniquet. His quick response saved Garrett’s life.
Garrett’s dad, retired police officer Scott Jones, says he loves Handville and Pofahl like sons, and provides additional information:
Nathan is now out of the Marines – also medically retired. He lost partial use of his right hand, and he gradually lost his vision in his right eye. He is blind in that eye now. He is married and has a baby, living in his home state of Florida. Nathan was the squad leader when they got blown up. He refused any pain meds until after he knew Garrett was evacuated and taken care of.
What happened afterward is even more remarkable.
After surgery in Germany, Garrett was taken to a naval medical facility in Bethesda, then the NMC in San Diego for more treatment. He lost 40 pounds during the course of bed rest and 17 follow up surgeries to deal with burns,infections and shrapnel. Garrett was well enough to welcome his fellow 2/7 Marines upon their return home, an emotional reunion for everyone.
Despite his injuries, Garrett wanted to return to duty with this fellow Marines, those men who’d saved his life, especially when news came the 2/7 was being deployed to Afghanistan.
Within a few months of the blast he was fitted with several prosthetic devices, all for walking, and one specially designed for him to see about returning to a long-held passion: snowboarding.
Remarkably, by December 2007 he was snowboarding in Colorado with fellow wounded warriors, a recreational outlet that strengthened him physically and psychologically, leading him to believe that indeed, one day, he could rejoin his unit.
In early 2008 Garrett had the opportunity to meet the commandant of the Marine Corps, General James Conway. He asked the general for permission to return to his unit.
Soon, Garrett was back with the 2/7, serving in intelligence, helping the battalion gather and disseminate information vital to operations in Afghanistan.
Thus, Garrett Jones became the fastest amputee to return to combat duty and one of the few to do so. And by the way, it was not a walk on role. He had to go through all the pre-deployment training endured by his fellow Marines.
Again, Garrett’s dad fills us in:
In Afghanistan, he did spend most of his time working in the intelligence shop. But the warrior spirit dies hard, and he begged his way into being allowed to go spend a week with his beloved Echo Co out on a FOB. He actually saw action out there, participated in an ambush of some Taliban fighters, killing them. The senior NCO out there asked Garrett if he wanted to be written up for another Combat Action Ribbon, and he refused, saying that Echo (2/7) had been out there fighting and sacrificing for the whole deployment, and he hadn’t, so it just didn’t feel right to him.
Garrett, a devout Christian, went on to work with and encourage other amputees, urging them to set new goals and strive to achieve them. Now retired from the Corps, Garrett continues snowboarding competition and runs a shooting review website.
He attended university fulltime in Oregon, preparing for post-graduate work in prosthetics, or a career in intelligence. Garrett is now married. The Garrett’s welcomed their first child into the world in August 2011.
Video of Garrett snowboarding - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkk5qlBJD5E
More video here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rXlNJemINI&feature=related
Originally published 11.15.11