Marine veteran teams up with Zac Brown to make a difference

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Photos: Southern Reel 

Joey Jones is a man whose work for military families caught the attention of Grammy winning artist Zac Brown. The two have teamed up and are now finding unique ways to help make a difference in the lives of those who’ve struggled through the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

On August 6, 2010, Marine Staff Sgt. Joey Jones led a team of bomb techs in a small town in Afghanistan. The Taliban was active in the area stockpiling weapons and bomb-making material.

Jones and his team found some unusual components in a building and locked it down so federal forensics investigators could document what he found.  During the heat of that summer, Jones disarmed or disposed of dozens of improvised explosive devices or I.E.Ds. On that day, he leaned against a wall while guarding the building making sure no one came close, and then he took one step forward.

“It threw me through the air," Jones told Good Day Atlanta's Ron Gant. "I landed 20 yards away on my back, not unconscious."

Jones had initiated an I.E.D.

“Daniel Greer, the Marine across from me was killed," Jones said. 

Jones lost both legs above the knees; however, his determination had him walking on prosthetic legs within six months. He wasn’t ready to walk away from the hospital, though. Other Marines were coming in injured, so he set up a peer group to mentor injured service members and their families. His work caught the attention of Congress, the Marine Corps Commandant, President Obama and Zac Brown.

Brown was so impressed, he asked Jones to come work for him.

Jones grew up in Dalton, Georgia and was happy to return to his home state. Brown wanted him to be his main spokesperson at Peachtree City's Southern Ground, which is a collection of artisans hand-picked by Brown. Under one roof, artists craft lifestyle brands using things like leather, wood and metal. The knives made there are individually honed and assembled by hand.

Jones doesn’t seem to mind showing folks around. He’s the first person to tell you that the proceeds from sales of the craft work fund a project dear to Brown and Jones. It’s a place called Camp Southern Ground.

Zac Brown attended camps in Georgia and was even a counselor.

“It's almost like the dream was to have this camp, and if music can get him there, that's great.” Jones said.

Three and a half months each year, Camp Southern Ground holds week long camps for kids, and some of the children have Autism. The rest of the year, the camp will service military families.

“In the kids camp is Goldstar kids who have lost a parent, and also children whose parents have been affected or whose family unit has been affected by this 15 year war," said Jones.

The Marine veteran survived missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he now seems perfectly happy with this new mission ahead of him.

“Nothing I do is the same as it was. I don’t get to do everything I did before, but that’s not stopping me from appreciating all the amazing things I get to do," said Jones.