Combat-wounded Staff Sergeant (Ret.) Johnny “Joey” Jones, who turned a traumatic, life-changing disability into a personal mission to improve the lives of all veterans, will speak at William Woods University on Oct. 19. His appearance at 6 p.m. in Cutlip Auditorium is free and open to the public.
His speech is part of the President’s Concert and Lecture Series, which brings a wide range of events to campus every year.
“He is going to speak on overcoming adversity,” Colette Whelan, assistant registrar and chair of the committee that asked him to come to campus, said. “We think that anyone can use a positive message about being positive in your life and knowing there is always hope, no matter what.”
Ryan Stocker, a William Woods senior and social work major from Fenton, Missouri, agrees: “I’m looking forward to hearing Joey Jones speak and other students are too. He has an interesting story and I think we can learn a lot from his experiences.”
Jones, now 30, was raised in Dalton, Georgia, and enlisted in the Marine Corps after high school. 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 Aug. 6, 2010, when he 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.
Determined to make the road to recovery easier for his fellow wounded veterans, 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 Marine wounded warriors.
After his discharge from Walter Reed, Jones enrolled in Georgetown University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies. While at Georgetown, he was a leader within his student body and co-founded the first veteran student organization at the school. His time at Georgetown fostered relationships and efforts that are still changing the lives of veteran students on campus today.
Jones was introduced to the national nonprofit Boot Campaign in 2011 through Joe Nichols, country music artist and Boot Campaign celebrity ambassador. He quickly realized that his personal goals and objectives were aligned with the charity’s mission to raise awareness of veterans’ issues, promote patriotism and provide assistance to military families. He joined the nonprofit, first as a speaker and public affairs director, quickly moving into a leading role as the executive director of marketing.
After losing his childhood best friend to PTSD-related suicide in 2012, Jones decided to make veterans’ issues his life’s work. Throughout his post-service career, he has carefully fostered relationships with key players in politics and the media in an effort to keep those issues at the forefront of discussion.
He’s shared his experiences and insights on the challenges facing active duty and retired service members as a dinner guest of President Obama in 2012, and later with former President George W. Bush in 2014. He has also visited with Vice President Biden, as well as multiple cabinet officials and military generals and still enjoys a close personal and working relationship with current Marine Corps leaders even after retiring from active duty in 2012.
That same year, he represented all wounded warriors as the guest of honor at the annual Commandant of the Marine Corps Birthday Ball, an honor reserved for cabinet officials and Marines of utmost distinguished service.
Until recently he served as the spokesperson and chief operating officer for Boot Campaign, educating the civilian public and corporate America on issues concerning veterans and their families in a nonpartisan, inspiring way. He continues to serve as an ambassador and advisor.
This summer he accepted a role in communications and brand management at Zac Brown’s Southern Ground and Camp Southern Ground, a non-profit organization working with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), social or emotional challenges, and children from military families.
Part of his previous role with the Boot Campaign included advocating for veterans in the media, regularly appearing as an outspoken, yet insightful military analyst for Fox News’ “The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson.”
Jones also has been featured on CNN, ABC’s “Nightline,” “CBS Evening News,” “Huckabee,” “Hannity,” “On the Record with Greta Van Sustren,” “Fox & Friends,” The Real” and regularly appears on Hallmark Channel’s “Home & Family.” On the big screen, he appeared in the Academy Award-winning film “Lincoln,” and is billed as a technical advisor for the independent film “Bad Hurt.”
In addition to his long list of speaking engagements, Jones is penning a memoir detailing his experiences in life and war, focused on overcoming adversity through a positive, proactive outlook.
The next President’s Concert and Lecture Series event is March 23, when Motown singer Theo Peoples (of the Tempations and Four Tops) visits William Woods.