Justin Jones wins big at Warrior Games
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — “August 24.”
Leigh Jones starts, but pauses, choked up, her eyes welling with tears. Leigh is talking about her son, Justin, a Marine corporal wounded in Afghanistan.
“August 24 in Sangin, Afghanistan,” she continued. “They were close to patrol base, coming back from patrol. They were alerted to something, but as they were alerted, Justin’s friend stepped on an IED. Justin was carrying his friend and then he stepped on an IED. His friend lost his leg but so far, Justin has been able to keep his,” she says, repeating a story she has recounted time after time.
“It’s been eight months and seven days since his injury, so he’s doing very well.”
While Leigh Jones still carries the pain of the past eight months and seven days with her, Justin’s performance at the 2012 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte helped ease some of that pain.
Justin stole the spotlight at Wednesday’s archery competition, winning gold in both the individual compound competition and team compound competition. To top it off, he shot a near-impossible “Robin Hood” during the preliminary round.
As Jones’ triumphantly held his hands in the air after winning the compound individual competition, his mother and wife, Nayelli Jones ran up to him, smothering him with hugs.
“I couldn’t even speak,” Leigh said.
Jones, an Ellijay, Georgia native, grew up shooting and hunting for fun, but he didn’t take up archery competitively until after his injury.
"I had my own bow but this is only my second competition," Jones said. "It’s really my first time being introduced to target shooting with a bow."
Since then, the Marine corporal has thrown his focus into preparing for Warrior Games. According to his wife, Jones was nervous about competing in the Games at first.
“But he’s looked over at Nayelli several times, and smiled this big smile,” Leigh adds.
It’s the same smile Jones flashes when asked about his teammates.
"I actually had more fun winning the team competition. I guess its kind of the Marine in me where you enjoy the team atmosphere."
Jones jumped off to a good start early on, shooting a rare “Robin Hood”, which occurs when an arrow is shot in the precise same place as the previous arrow, lodging one arrow into the back of the other. Jones shot his Robin Hood right on the bulls eye.
He advanced to the elimination round as the six seed, then won his next two matches to advance to the gold medal match.
“At that point I knew he could do it, I knew he had it in him,” Leigh said. “We got a chance to spend some time with him when he was shooting outside and he was so relaxed. He was focused, but relaxed, so that helped a lot.”
Jones rolled to a 106-95 victory in the gold medal match amid rousing support from his mother, wife and fellow Marines.
“It was absolutely awesome to have this support," Jones said. "It’s great knowing that it’s not just going to help the archery team but the overall team to win the cup.”
Not quite finished yet, Jones helped the Marines win gold in the team compound competition. Before friends and teammates were done congratulating him on his performance, Jones was off to the shooting range to prepare for Thursday’s shooting competition where he will vie for gold in the open prone rifle and open pistol competition.
“I’m just taking it all in. I really enjoyed the face that I’ve progressed and learned so much, and now I'm just enjoying it."