Johnny Joey Jones, a Marine Corps veteran who lost his legs in Afghanistan, releases his first book, "Unbroken Bonds of Battle," on Tuesday, June 27, 2023. “I don't want to tell my story,” he told Coffee or Die. “I want to tell my friends' stories.” Photo courtesy of Johnny Joey Jones/Twitter.
To most of the US, Johnny Joey Jones is known as the Marine veteran turned news correspondent who serves as an onscreen military analyst and contributor on Fox News. But there’s more to Jones than his time in service, his injury, or his current career.
Jones grew up in the small town of Dalton, Georgia. His family had some military connections, but the fathers of his two best friends, Chris McDonald and Keith Stancill, were both career military. McDonald’s father, who served in the Marine Corps Reserves, was also a teacher and football coach at the boys’ high school.
“Chris’ dad deployed during Operation Desert Storm, and when he came back, he had a slideshow of his deployment that he shared, and that inspired me pretty early on,” Jones tells Coffee or Die in a recent phone interview.
“The three of us [Chris, Keith, and I] were inseparable by our senior year,” Jones continues. “They always knew they were going to join, and somehow I ended up joining first.”
Combat veteran Johnny Joey Jones was a bomb technician who served eight years with the Marines before a devastating explosion in Afghanistan in 2010 cost him both of his legs. Photo courtesy of Fox News Channel.
Jones briefly attended community college after graduating from Southeast Whitfield High School in 2004 but “got restless.” He had his own apartment and held a job at the carpet mill for a few months post–high school and wasn’t initially interested in leaving town, but Stancill started talking to a recruiter and introduced him to Jones in 2005. That was all it took.
After graduating second in his class in Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School, Jones spent fewer than two days at his first duty station as a radio tech before being pulled to work in the galley, serve as a range coach, and guard nuclear submarines.
“If you show initiative, work ethic, and maturity, the Marine Corps is full of opportunities to do something else; you just have to earn it first,” Jones said. “I was always moving around, learning new jobs, and I loved every minute of it. I think that has also been incredibly useful for post-service because the ability to be open to and confident in learning new skill sets makes it very easy to make both lateral and upward moves in a professional career.”
After his stint guarding the nuclear subs, Jones became interested in explosive ordnance disposal. In the Marine Corps, there are specific prerequisites for consideration in this field: You must be 21 or older, you must have served for at least two years, and you must have attained the rank of sergeant. Once Jones turned 21, he initiated the transition to EOD. While on deployment in Iraq in 2007, he went from providing security for an EOD team to on-the-job training.
Johnny Joey Jones spent nearly a year recovering at Walter Reed Military Medical Center after losing both of his legs in a 2010 IED explosion in Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of Johnny Joey Jones.
Jones continued serving in an EOD capacity through another deployment two years later in Afghanistan, when, on Aug. 6, 2010, he stepped on an improvised explosive device and lost both of his legs. He was sent to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he spent 10.5 months recovering from his physical wounds. It took two years to process the paperwork for his medical retirement.
During that time, Jones started working with the Veterans Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill. He also attended Georgetown University, graduating with a degree in social and public policy. His time on the Hill resulted in a host of legislative improvements and VA policy changes for military members and veterans
“My time in the Marine Corps is a catalyst for almost everything, professionally and personally, that I’m involved in,” Jones said.
There’s a handful of issues that Jones feels strongly about, and advocacy became a big part of his post-injury life.
Johnny Joey Jones and country music artist Tim Montana at the Tim Montana & Friends: American Thread Sporting Clays Shoot, which raised money for military nonprofits. Photo courtesy of Johnny Joey Jones.
“Finding the balance between bragging about myself and staying humble, that’s something that comes from learning how to advocate for myself in the Marine Corps, and it allows you to tell the most accurate version of your story,” Jones said. “Learning the politics and movements that help you get a promotion applies directly to pursuing a career in the corporate world, and especially recovering from an injury directly translated to my passion for advocating for veterans and becoming a speaking voice for all issues I care about.”
Jones and his two best friends, Keith and Chris, deployed within the same 18-month window between 2007 and 2008, and each came back with a different experience.
“Chris [McDonald] came home both mentally and physically injured,” Jones said. “He was diagnosed with PTSD and had hurt his hip, and with the hydrocodone from the VA, he began self-medicating.”
Jones and McDonald’s family worked to help him when the VA wouldn’t, getting him into detox and finding a rehab facility. Unfortunately, Chris relapsed before his scheduled intake date in 2012.
“I felt like I failed my best friend,” Jones said. “I know I didn’t do the things that created the cause for him to take his life, but I questioned what more I could have done to stop him from taking that wrong step.
“I couldn’t save him, but maybe I can be a voice to help other people save theirs. That’s where much of the motivation came from to get involved in the veteran nonprofit world. Additionally, outside of Walter Reed, there are so many guys hurting and not receiving the same kinds of gratitude and support that programs offer in the DC area. I wanted to share that.”
Jones heard Joe Nichols on the radio talking about Boot Campaign, and he knew it was an organization he wanted to connect with. He started volunteering with Boot Campaign, serving as the chief operating officer and working alongside Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell and Taya Kyle, author and widow of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, before taking a place on the board of directors. (His wife, Megan, serves as the program and grants manager.)
“Joey has been a steadfast supporter of Boot Campaign and our mission for over a decade,” said Boot Campaign CEO Shelly Kirkland. “With his commitment to our efforts, we have expanded our reach to many different audiences, including the veteran population. Joey has always said that the most courageous thing a veteran can do after service is ask for help, and by his sharing our message, more veterans have done just that. Joey continues to reinforce the fact that seeking help is a sign of strength, and though he is no longer serving in uniform, he’s continuing to give back to his brothers and sisters in arms as a board member of Boot Campaign.”
Johnny Joey Jones' first book, Unbroken Bonds of Battle, is available nationwide Tuesday, June 27, 2023. Photo by Lauren Warner/Coffee or Die.
As Jones continues his support of Boot Campaign and other nonprofits — including Grammy-award winner Zac Brown’s Camp Southern Ground — he’s also working as a military analyst for Fox News. His dedication to improving the lives of service members and their families is evident in both his volunteer and full-time roles. Most recently, he designed and piloted a Warrior Week military transition program as the senior adviser to military programming for Camp Southern Ground.
Jones’ first book, Unbroken Bonds of Battle, is available nationwide on Tuesday, June 27. Instead of a memoir, Jones tells the stories of the warriors who impacted him on and off the battlefield.
“I don’t want to tell my story, I want to tell my friends’ stories and how they’ve impacted me,” Jones said. “I’m an amalgamation of all these people and experiences. For the dozen people I write about, there are another dozen out there that are just as impactful. I want people to appreciate how unique the stories are and realize that we are those people for others that we encounter.”
In Jones’ line of work, he has met and worked with military heroes, celebrities, and politicians; however, he said it’s often the regular people in our lives who do exceptional things and have the biggest impact on others.
“The heroism that exists in all of our lives is often overlooked.”
Lauren Warner is the managing editor of the BRCC Blog. She's only slightly connected to the military community, growing up as an Army brat before serving in the Army herself as a public affairs specialist, then becoming an Army spouse and caregiver. With degrees in English, journalism, and a master's in marketing, to say that she enjoys reading and writing might be an understatement. She spends her free time drinking too much coffee and going on adventures with her husband and three dogs (yes, they're all rescues).