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It's just a little story, about a guy and his high school sweetheart.....

   Semper Fi: Upbeat Joey Jones (L), about to get married.... (Photo: Nigel Kinrade)

   By Mike Mulhern


   On this Fourth of July weekend, Joey Jones and his fiancée Meg Garrison, tight for 10 years now and about ready to finally get married, will be hanging out with some buds in the infield at Daytona International Speedway.
   It's just a little story, about a guy and his high school sweetheart…

   But this isn't just any couple here for the races and maybe, hopefully, some sun at the beach, on a holiday break.
   Lean and lanky Joey Jones, with his buzz-cut hair and this big, wide grin, is a good ol' Marine from Dalton, Georgia, in the Appalachian foothills, just south of Chattanooga and maybe an hour over the mountain west of Dawsonville.
   Yes, he knows Bill and Ernie Elliott, and a lot about NASCAR.
   He loves his racing, in part because his father used to build those huge racing chassis dynos.
   Joey and Meg will have special seats here for Saturday night's Daytona 400 -- invited as part of one of the many military-related promotions NASCAR and its various sponsors (this one, Oakley) has this season.
   Each military man invited to one of these race weekends of course has his particular own story. For Jones, well, he marches to a different drummer these days; he has to….after that IED went off underneath him that day in Afghanistan and took his legs.
   But that injury, which has left him with some candy-apple-colored limbs, hasn't wiped the grin off his face or taken him off active duty as an explosive ordinance disposal wizard, one of the 600-odd USMC EOD men.
   "If Full Metal Jacket (http://imdb.to/91G3h ) was your movie, then The Hurt Locker (  http://imdb.to/108Yr ) is ours," Jones was saying Friday, with a wry grin, having lunch over by the infield's Lake Lloyd, by the Daytona backstretch, with half a dozen fellow severely injured Marines.
    Jones worked 80-plus IEDs successfully in Afghanistan…."and then, just walking down the road one day, I stepped on an IED.
   "That's just luck.
    "…and I'm very fortunate I'm alive."
   While Wisconsin Rep. Betty McCollum appears hard at work trying to disengage the U.S. military from NASCAR sponsorships, the military presence at NASCAR races seems higher than ever, with the military itself using innovative marketing techniques to make its own points. And invited here for the week are these Marines, whose prosthetics are a tribute to the medical marvels of doctors at Walter Reed. (Part of the Oakley angle in this are its own safety innovations, such as  http://bit.ly/hZnT4i ).
    Garrison concedes "When I found out Joey was going to EOD school, I really didn't know the extent of what all he would be doing. It's kind of overwhelming when you find out exactly what he's going to be doing. But he's a really smart guy, so it wasn't a huge shock…because he's usually going out on a limb to do something crazy anyway.
   "I've known Joey for 10 years now. We dated in high school. He's definitely a very special person. He's always been very caring, very compassionate. And he chose to be an EOD tech because he knew it would save lives….and he didn't want to kill people."
    Jones was on Okinawa, training Marines in the assembly-and-disassembly of machine guns, when he took the opportunity to deploy to Iraq. In Iraq he was charged with security for EOD men, working a machine gun.
   "In the Marine Corps, to get into the EOD field, you have to be in the Marine Corps for a while, because the training itself is long and expensive," he says.
   "Working security with them was my opportunity to get seen the EOD techs and interviewed by them…and get their thumbs-up to go to the school house."
   "If you're in public service, you can chose to be a policeman or a fireman….any why would somebody chose to be a fireman over a police officer? You're never going to be the bad guy, you don't have to worry about killing anybody. You're just worried about saving lives.
   "It's just what you want to do. If you really want to go out there and attack the enemy, you can go infantry.
   "I sat on a machine-gun my first deployment, and we knew every time we left the base we might intercept an IED or a roadside bomb. And if we did, we'd call two guys to jump out of the truck, and they'd go check it out and do some smoke-and-magic, and first thing you know is there are no more bombs out there.
   "It got real high-tech in Iraq, because you could roll out there in a big truck with robots and bomb-sniffers.
   "But in Afghanistan it's just what you can carry on your back; and my equipment consisted of 550 cord, which is about like a shoestring, and a couple different hooks, and a pair of scissors, and a metal detector I could carry in my hand. That was it.
   "This is as high-tech or low-tech as you want to make it.
   "But more it's about understanding the threat….I compare it to being a snake handler: if you know how that bomb works, you can make an educated guess as to what you've got.
   Marine Corp EOD schooling is a year-long process, with emphasis on the theory and physics of improvised explosives, principally at Florida's Eglin Air Force Base. "We don't try to advertise what we do, because if the enemy knows what we know, they'll change what they do. But to know how to take something apart, you have to know how it's put together….
    "There are all these facets of knowledge that you need to know to do the job. So we go to specialized schools for each of those."
    There are some 60 EOD specialty schools across the country, including a new one for the Marines in at 29 Palms, in the Mohave Desert, about an hour east of California's Auto Club Speedway, and a nuclear school near Albuquerque.
    Some IEDs are quite complex.  "Not to speak more than I should, but sometimes simpler is better," Jones says. "The less parts, the more efficient it's going to be. The more parts, the more that can go wrong.
   "I've encountered some incredibly complex IEDs, and I've encountered some that are very, very simple.
   "You don't seem the thing. It's in the ground. You're fighting on their territory, so they know how to hide them. And the techniques we use to find them, just say it's tax money going to good use."
    Now recovered from his injuries Jones is an EOD instructor/trainer, no longer working in-country: "I love the Marine Corps, I love the EOD field, and I want to give back to my brothers who are over there fighting."
    Would that everyone here this weekend got a chance to shake Joey Jones' hand, and feel the spirit…..


   Joey Jones (L) and Rusty Wallace (Photo: Nigel Kinrade)






Good story. Thanks for

Good story. Thanks for writing it.
Jim K

May God bless our true hero's

May God bless our true hero's the US Military.. They are the bravest and the best.

Thank you Joey Jones USMC..

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