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VFW Magazine February 2018 : Page 15

Why 31 marathons in 31 days? Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran Rob Jones said he chose to run 31 marathons because anything less than a full month “wasn’t long enough” and more than that seemed too long. “I figured I’d just do it for an entire month and people could probably pay attention to that for a long time, but it would also be a long enough challenge that it would be really tough to do,” Jones said. “And so I just picked the longest possible month.” think,” Jones said. “And the body is just reacting in the most primal way possible.” Once he regained his senses, Jones said, he began to think about what life would be like as an amputee. “I didn’t really know,” Jones recalled. “What am I still going to be able to do? What am I not going to be able to do any-more? And then, eventually they carried me over to the helicopter. They put me out, and I woke up in the hospital.” RIGHT: Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran Rob Jones displays a VFW shirt presented to him in October after completing a marathon in Kansas City, Mo., where VFW National Headquarters is located. Representatives from local law enforcement, fire departments and the Kansas City running community joined Jones throughout the day as he ran 26.2 miles at Berkley Riverfront Park. Jones is a member of VFW Post 9934 in Dana Point, Calif. Jones was responsible for finding impro-vised explosive devices (IED). On July 22, 2010, Jones said he was in the pro-cess of clearing IEDs after someone stepped on one and it didn’t detonate. “I was clearing a route through that area because there’s probably going to be secondaries, and that’s when I was hit by the secondary — or the one that worked — and that resulted in double above-knee amputations,” Jones said. Before the IED went off, Jones said, he was focused on the task at hand. After though, he said nothing went through his mind. “Your mind just kind of shuts down, I RUNNING FOR THE WOUNDED To prepare for the month of marathons, Jones simply began running. A lot. He built up mileage over one-and-a-half years, doing test runs and back-to-back there will be plenty of people who are ready to help them.” Eric Dorre ran a half-marathon with Jones during the inaugural UK race in October at Hyde Park after hearing about the veteran’s mission on the Jocko Podcast, an internet radio show hosted by retired Navy SEAL Jocko Willink. To Dorre, who ran farther with Jones than he ever has before, Jones’ story is one of optimism. “Rob reminds us of what we can do, and encourages us to go out and do it,” Dorre said. Before setting off to run with Jones, Dorre said Jones asked his wife, Pam Jones, how long a marathon is. “She responded, ‘26.22 miles.’ He quipped back, ‘I’ll make sure I do 26.23,’” Dorre recalled. The most memorable part of the run — aside from Jones’ speed — was that members of Jones’ family were along for support. FEBRUARY 2018   • WWW.VFW.ORG • PHOTO BY MAGGIE KEEL/VFW LEFT: Rob Jones trains in September 2016 in Washington, D.C., for his month of marathons. His mission was to run 31 marathons in 31 days. Jones, a double, above-the-knee amputee, aimed to show other wounded veterans their capabilities and to raise funds for organizations that assist veterans. ‘THE NEW WAY OF MOVING AROUND’ Jones, who was medically retired in December 2011, said he was more-or-less self-sufficient after about a year. Being around people who had “been there before” helped Jones through his recovery. When he first began rehabilitation at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Jones saw others who had been rehabbing for about a year-and-a-half and were preparing to leave. One man, according to Jones, could carry a backpack, run and ride his bike. Jones later was transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. The biggest challenge Jones said he faced was acclimating his body to “the new way of moving around.” “It’s physically taxing and it’s tough to do, but it’s more than manageable,” Jones said. “You look at a dog that’s missing a leg, and he just kind of figures it out. So it’s kind of the same exact thing with the prosthetics.” As Jones progressed in his therapy, he realized he was becoming the person who newly disabled veterans looked to for inspiration. “That kind of made me realize I have to work even harder now because I have to show these new people what is possi-ble,” Jones said. marathons along the way. “It just kind of built up slowly, and [I tried] to make my body into whatev-er it needed to be to do this challenge,” Jones said. The best part of the experience, according to Jones, was the support he received along the way. At least 20 to 30 people throughout the day ran with him in each city. “They’re helping me prove to other veterans that they’re not alone,” Jones said, “and all they need to do is ask and 15

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