Disabled veteran is pedaling with a purpose

Purple Heart recipient rides through county, raises money to help injured vets

nwilson@thetribunenews.comApril 5, 2014 

Over the past five months, for more than 5,000 tough miles, Purple Heart recipient and double amputee Rob Jones has kept moving on his bike.

Jones, who uses prosthetic limbs, has vowed not to quit until he reaches his destination of Camp Pendleton near San Diego in mid-April.

He started his journey in Bar Harbor, Maine, in October.

Jones passed through San Luis Obispo County this week, receiving a welcome escort from San Luis Obispo Police Department officers through town.

The 28-year-old Lovettsville, Va., native, who served in the Marine Corps, was badly wounded in 2010 by an improvised explosive device while trying to clear a field of IEDs as part of a mission in Afghanistan.

The injury required amputation of both legs above the knee. He had to learn how to walk and then ride a bicycle with prosthetic limbs.

Remaining active

“I vowed not to fall into depression,” Jones said after finishing a 35-mile stretch that started in Morro Bay and ended in Arroyo Grande on Friday. “I decided that pretty much immediately after it happened.”

His postwar life has included winning a bronze medal in rowing in the 2012 Paralympics Games in London.

The story of his cross-country bike ride was documented on NBC’s “Today” on Tuesday.

Traveling in the dead of winter, icy roads have made him fall. At times he hasn’t wanted to continue. But he has vowed not to quit.

Through his ride, Jones has raised about $97,000 for organizations that provide relief and support for injured veterans.

Those organizations include the Semper Fi Fund, the Coalition to Support America’s Heroes and Ride2Recovery. All proceeds go to charity. His efforts involved directing people to his website where they can donate.

“I don’t care what people say or think about the war,” Jones said. “I don’t comment on it. I’m riding to help the charities that have helped people like me.”

Making memories

He has been greeted by well-wishers throughout his ride. Jones said his memories will be of the people he met along the way, beautiful landscapes and the time he has spent with his brother and father, who drive the van that escorts him to ensure his safety on the road.

“It has been a good ride,” Jones said of passing through San Luis Obispo County.

“I got yelled at a bit up near Big Sur. People have been friendly once I got past there. It’s nice the sun has come out, too.”

Jones said he doesn’t know what to expect when he reaches Camp Pendleton, but he looks forward to some rest and then planning his next venture.

“I’ll take some time to relax for sure,” Jones said. “I’ve thought about doing some stand-up comedy. I’ve done it a few times already.”

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