The motorcycle Jeremiah rode in on was a “welcome home from Iraq present” to himself in 2007. To say he deserved it would be an understatement. Sergeant Jones (or “Jonesie,” as his men call him) has seen action in all three major U.S. conflicts of the past two decades: Operation Desert Storm, the war in Afghanistan, and the war in Iraq. He’s been hit by IEDs (improvised explosive devices) 13 times, and has seen and experienced more than enough to change him forever. In 2006, he was awarded the Purple Heart when the vehicle he was riding in hit three anti-tank mines.
“We all survived,” he says. “But we are scarred for life, mentally and physically.”
Truth is, he considers himself one of the lucky ones. Some of his friends have suffered worse fates from smaller explosions than the one he survived.
“One of my squad members was killed by a bomb smaller than the one that blew me up. Another lost part of his leg, part of his hand, and part of his face. When we gave him the news that he could no longer serve in the military … you’ve never seen a grown man cry until you tell him that he can’t do the only thing that he was trained to do, and the only thing he can do.”
Because so many want to keep serving and can’t, Sergeant Jones feels compelled to honor their sacrifice with his own service.
“I owe it to all the other service members who absolutely cannot serve to stay in as long as I’m able,” he says.
After he bought his Honda, he started a motorcycle club with some of his fellow soldiers in Michigan. They called themselves the Black Dragons, in honor of the vehicles they drove in Iraq, which they call “dragons.” Their vests say “One of Many” to honor fellow veterans and active military personnel. Each vest bears ribbons to indicate the conflicts in which they have served. Jones is one of only three members to wear three such ribbons.
While serving in Afghanistan last year, his buddies decided to ride to Milwaukee for the 110TH.
“My sergeant-at-arms [of the club] said, ‘Hey, this would be a good run for us!’ So we all bought tickets while we were in Afghanistan.”
Jones’ experience in Milwaukee impacted him more than he could have imagined. All week long, he and his friends were offered handshakes, pats on the back, hugs, and heartfelt thanks for his sacrifice.
“Our vests got a LOT of attention,” he says. “From the time we got there to the time we left, my soldiers and I did not have to pay for a drink or for food. We protested, because we didn’t want to mooch off of anyone. But our money was ‘no good,’ so to speak.”
Sergeant Jones: This is how we roll.
Just two weeks later, Jones traded in his Honda for a 2003 Harley-Davidson Dyna® Low Rider. Now, in addition to being a proud member of the Black Dragons M.C., he’s also a member in good standing of the Harley Owners Group.
As our country recognizes those who serve and have served to protect our freedom during Military Appreciation Month, Jones tells people there are two things you should do. Extend your hand and offer a sincere thank you and promise to live your life to the fullest.
“That way,” he explains, “when we do go to war and die and get hurt and all that, we’re not doing it in vain. Take advantage of the freedoms we have over here that a lot of people take for granted. Don’t take America for granted. Because there are a lot of men and women who get up and fight every day for the things that you get up every day and enjoy.”
In other words, live free and ride free and never forget that the freedom we all enjoy has come at a price.
Thank you for your service, Sergeant Jones. And welcome to H.O.G.®