Marks remain of Marine’s service - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Marks remain of Marine’s service

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Posted: Tuesday, June 26, 2007 6:31 am | Updated: 6:59 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The back of Marine Cpl. Craig Jones’ legs, right armpit and right shoulder are dotted with hundreds of purple scars — remnants of healing shrapnel wounds from an improvised explosive device in Iraq.

Jones was walking on a routine patrol April 27 when he was hit from behind with hundreds of rocks and metal pieces from the nearby explosion. He was one of five injured in the group in the Al Anbar province of Iraq.

Despite his injuries, the Gilbert 20-year-old considers himself lucky, and said he can’t complain.

“It could have been worse,” he said. “Some have died or lost their limbs” after an IED.

Because Jones was in full combat mode, his helmet and flak jacket protected his head and chest area.

“I didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “I think I did pretty good, though, because I stayed calm.”

After the explosion, Jones was taken to a base hospital where he had his first surgery. He was flown to another base hospital for his second surgery, and then flown to Germany for a week.

Jones was then flown to Bethesda, Md., where he stayed at the National Naval Medical Center for five weeks, undergoing a total of 10 surgeries to wash the wounds, clean out the shrapnel and close up the wounds. He also received three skin grafts.

“I will not be 100 percent, but at least I have them all,” Jones said about his limbs. “They tell me the scars should fade. I won’t be doing leg modeling anymore.”

During his recovery in Maryland, President Bush was making his twice-annual visit to the hospital. Bush spent about 10 to 15 minutes visiting with Jones, his brother, Kevin, and his mom, Maureen.

Bush looked at Craig Jones’ injuries and thanked him for his service. The president also gave Jones a coin he gives when visiting with soldiers. High-ranking officials also hand out coins when they meet soldiers, Jones said.

“It was a good experience, a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said.

Kevin Jones said he was able to visit his older brother in the hospital in Maryland a week after the explosion.

“The wounds were shocking,” Kevin, 18, said. “It was a lot worse than he explained on the phone. It was pretty bad.”

Kevin and Craig Jones are pretty close, and Kevin said he was impressed that he never heard his brother complain once during his hospital stay.

“I complained about what he was going through more than he did,” Kevin said. “He really went through a lot. He has a lot of strength.”

Craig Jones joined the Marine Corps in June 2005 after graduating from Mesquite High School in Gilbert. Joining was something he always wanted to do, especially after his cousin and best friend signed up.

He entered the Marines as a field radio operator, and was sent to Iraq in January, where he worked as an air controller.

Jones was sent home to Gilbert on June 2, and has been doing physical therapy three times a week to build up the muscles in his legs and body. At first he could not stand unassisted for longer than 10 seconds, but now he is walking on his own.

After a month of physical therapy, he will be redeployed to North Carolina until his unit returns from Iraq. He has another year and 10 months of service, and said he may be sent back to Iraq.

Jones has plans to go to college and major in criminal justice. He wants to be a police officer or an FBI agent, or he might decide to stay with the Marines.

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