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Orioles fan and military hero is an All-Star

Stacy M. Brown | 7/26/2013, 10:31 a.m.
Life-long Baltimore Orioles fan Rob Jones (center) had an opportunity to meet some of baseball’s top players at the All Star game in New York recently. Jones poses here with Adam Jones (left) and former Orioles infielder Mark Reynolds. Courtesy photo

— Rob Jones recently spent a few days in New York, taking in baseball’s All-Star Game and enjoying the sights and sounds of the big city.

The Charlottesville, Virginia resident and life-long Baltimore Orioles fan was also one of 30 individuals honored by Major League Baseball and People Magazine in their “Tribute for Heroes” campaign, a national initiative recognizing veterans and military service members.

“There were thousands who entered their names into the contest, so it’s truly an honor to go to New York and to represent my favorite team, the Baltimore Orioles,” said Jones, who was selected by a nationwide fan vote to represent the Birds.

Jones said the trip to New York afforded him the opportunity to meet some of baseball’s top players, attend news conferences and of course watch up close the sport’s mid-summer classic.

“I remember as a child going to the old Memorial Stadium with my dad to see the Orioles and, of course, I go to Camden Yards every chance I get,” said Jones, age 27.

Oriole officials said Jones is a study in bravery and determination. He grew up on a farm in Lovettsville, Virginia and graduated from Virginia Tech in 2007. Prior to graduation, Jones joined the Marine Corps Reserve where he was responsible for a number of disciplines, including the use of explosives and the detection of buried improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and weapons caches.

He was deployed to Habbaniyah, Iraq in 2008 and again to Delaram/Sangin, Afghanistan in 2010. During the Afghanistan deployment, Jones was operating as part of a push into Taliban territory where he was tasked with clearing an area with a high likelihood of containing an IED.

That’s where he was wounded by the very IED he was searching for. After losing both legs in the incident, the combat engineer fought back when some may have given up.

“I was taken to National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland for the initial phases of my recovery, which consisted primarily of healing and closing my wounds,” Jones said. “I was then transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for the remainder of my rehabilitation. At Walter Reed, I was fitted with prosthetics, and worked very hard to learn how to walk with two prosthetic knees. I also used the time to relearn how to do other things with my new challenge including riding an upright cycle, running, and rowing.”

After intense training and several qualifying events, Jones and his rowing partners won the bronze medal at the 2012 Paralympics in London. Now, he plans to cycle across the country later this year in attempt to raise $1 million for charities that aid disabled veterans including: The Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, the Semper Fi Fund, and Ride 2 Recovery.

The Purple Heart recipient says that he has already raised about $10,000, even before starting his journey. “I know this is going to be difficult, but I’m up to the task,” Jones said.

Despite the vast amount of difficulties he faced, Jones was able to participate in the Nation’s Triathlon in Washington, D.C. in 2011. That is when he first had the idea to cycle across America. “The more that I thought of it, the less reason I could think [of] not do it,” Jones said.

He plans to begin the trip in Maine cycling through the middle of the country, angling eventually to Southern California through Utah.

“I just want to show what Americans can accomplish when we come together for a purpose,” he said.

Anyone who wishes to follow Jones on his journey or to make a donation, please visit his website: www.robjonesjourney.com.