ATLANTA, GEORGIA —
It was a sunny day. As U.S. Staff Sergeant Jonny Jones was on patrol in Afghanistan's Helmand province - suddenly - a land mine exploded, changing the life of this U.S. Marine forever.
"Joey" as his friends call him, lost both of his legs in the blast.
"When I woke up in Germany my immediate thought was, "do I have a knee?", because a lot of guys that lose their leg below the knee recover faster and can do more," he recalls. "So if you have one knee that can make a huge difference. And unfortunately the nurse was very honest and said you don't have a knee but you're healthy and you'll be able to walk again and you're going to live.”
"Joey" Jones had served eight years with the Marines, with tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan -- including seven months as a mine sweeper.
After his injury, Jones received financial help from the U.S. government, including health care, education and housing. It's a different story for Afghan soldiers who fought alongside Americans.
When VOA visited Jones and his family at his home near Atlanta, Georgia, we showed him photos of an Afghan soldier officer who was disabled in battle.
Rafiullah Kunari lost his legs in a military operation in Faryab Province. A mechanic now, he prays someday he will be able to walk again.
“I wish one day somebody could help me and I could stand on my feet, like him (Staff Sgt. Jones), and do my chores," he told VOA. " But if I were in this situation, I would not be able to take care of my daily tasks since I have many problems.”
Some Afghan officials say military personnel should receive a yearly retirement benefit from the government. But Kunari says he has never received a check.
Joey Jones has great respect for the sacrifices of his Afghan counterparts -- who are often left to fend for themselves.
“It was inspiring and heartbreaking to see Rafiullah and to know he doesn't get the legs that I value or the opportunity that I get," he said. "But what I'd like to tell him is that he's still an inspiration even to me. To suffer through what he's gone through. But still he'll continue living his life and not just be a beggar or someone who feels sorry for himself. You can see it in his eyes - that he's a fighter.”
Joey Jones & Rafiullah Kunari, two soldiers on the same battlefield. But each facing new challenges as they adjust to life outside the military.