Last Thursday night you would have found me at the high school Veterans Day program. The wind ensemble, orchestra, artist guitar ensemble, and jazz ensemble all played music, and a former American Idol contestant (who happens to attend our high school) sang. There was also a slide show set to music, but when the music for the slide show failed to work, we ended up watching the images in silence. The two young men in charge of that part of the program were horrified. What they didn’t understand at that moment was the blessing in allowing us to focus solely on the photographs without any distractions. Some of the images were ones we have all seen in magazines or on our television screens, but watching them in a silent auditorium was a poignant experience.
The guest of honor for the Veterans Day program was a 2003 graduate of our high school. Back then he was simply known as Rob; but last week he was in full uniform as CPL Robert Jones, USMC, and he was walking on his new titanium legs. Yes, legs. Both of them. An IED claimed his flesh and bone in Afghanistan in July, but it did not claim his positive attitude.
“The most common reaction I get from people who visit me is disbelief that I can maintain such a positive outlook. It isn’t because I posses anything that anybody doesn’t have, nor is it because I have the will of a superhero. My positive outlook comes from the very people that are impressed by it. Every visitor I get gives me a little more strength and a little more hope.”
Before the end of the program, there was another slide show. This time the photographs were familiar in a different way: they showed images of graduates of our high school who have served or are currently serving in the military, including CPL Jones. The slide image of him sweeping for explosives –a normal job for him prior to July 22, an act that took his legs and even some of his dreams– was especially gripping to my heart.
In the face of what many would consider a disaster –the loss of both of his legs– this young man has a positive outlook.