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Stories of Survival - Nick Jones

Apr 25, 2024
It's about 24 hours before we're about to leave, we start getting intelligence updates that out of Seven Fighters there are eight Fighters. 8 hours out, there's 13, 14, 15 and then we're about to insert and there's like 19 Fighters on the ground. Now Isis opened. with everything they had in that cave, I mean, it sounded like hell was breaking out behind me like explosions, machine guns, small arms, everything as it was, it was just wild and I was like shit, I'm not sure how, but They knew we were coming. My name is Nick Jones. I was a Marine Raider with Marox, a Marine Special Operations Command.
stories of survival   nick jones
I spent eight years in Marso and 12 in total in the Marine Corps. I am currently the President and Founder of Talon's Reach Foundation and live in Boseman Montana. I grew up in OA Kansas. So in City, outside of Kansas City, I was actually quite the troublemaker growing up, I barely graduated high school and then the last time I got into a fight, I got into a fight and then I was on probation. They arrested me. I was going out. wives I see my mom crying my dad crying my boss was mad at me because I was at work I was working at a skate shop and then I had a meeting scheduled with the recruiter the marine recruiter for the next day and I used my only phone call when I got to the juvie to call him and say "Hey man, I'm screwed.
stories of survival   nick jones

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stories of survival nick jones...

I got in trouble again. I'm going to miss our meeting and then he said great, well, I'll be at your house." every time you go out, so they let me out early under house arrest and he showed up at my house, laid it all out like recruiters do and said, "I'm here to help like this, if you mean it." This, let's get serious and then the next thing you know, I signed the papers and did all my community service with the Marine Corps Recruiting Station, got myself together and ended up going to boot camp in January of 2010, so so As soon as I could, I left him.
stories of survival   nick jones
Because Kansas wasn't doing it for me, so I said I needed to change and I was going to pull the trigger and leave. I chose the Marine Corps because every time I heard about the Marine Corps they said they are the most elite fighting force. I believed every second when I found out about Marso. I think it's like the 1% of the 10% that really want to work hard. Yeah, I ended up trying and doing it and then once I got it done. there it was like this is definitely what I imagined the Marine Corps would be like on July 10, 2017, our unit was sending guys to Yuma, Arizona to do a close air support training package, so they were taking everything like the Guys, the air traffic controllers, the jtacs who are there to carry out this training.
stories of survival   nick jones
I remember that morning I said goodbye to several of the guys and gave them a hug before heading to the airfield and taking off, so they took a C130 from Cherry Point when they were flying over Mississippi there was a show Bad with the plane one of the propellers basically broke fell and split the fuselage in half there were 16 marines on board all 16 died in that accident uh seven of them were in the hotel company there were six Raiders and a sarc so it's a Corman amphibious reconnaissance special so it was strange that day when I was working going home spending time with the family.
I saw something on my phone like this news article about a plane crash over Mississippi and I thought I didn't know anyone who was over Mississippi right now so I just dismissed it and later that night I got a phone call from my team leader and he was like, "Hey man, like I didn't know." If you've heard it already, but there was a plane crash, my heart immediately skipped a beat and I thought, oh no, when he told me the names of the guys that were there, he started spitting them out and it seemed to him that Talon was there.
We've gone through all the paperwork and Talon had you on his job sheet and wants you to notify his wife, so we need you to get to the Battalion right now, get dressed in your uniform and come here and then us. I'll let you know what to do. The crazy thing is that he actually didn't even have a uniform ready, like he was a field marine. He didn't always dress me in uniform and then once you get to Special Ops. It's like you rarely wear a uniform unless you're entering a formal school, so I called a friend who lived right next to Talon and said, "Hey, I don't have a uniform, this is what happened, um , need".
I need to borrow a uniform, so I went to his house. um, he says, well, you're not going to like this part and hands me the uniform. He says I don't have uniform either. Actually, this is Talons. I go back to At the Battalion I do the reading and then I drive back through the neighborhood and Notifier and that was by far one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in my military care career, going to seven funerals in a row and We had to deploy 6 months later, so it was my first experience with real trauma.
I mean, he was also a massive casualty, so it was like dealing with the loss of seven guys, so the way to deal with that was to just drink more work. harder or be there longer and from then on, like every July 10th, we would remember them, we would do some kind of really gnarly exercise, we would always share a drink together and stuff like that, so I guess the most important thing I took from From there, I didn't really conceptualize or think about the fact that we might lose the state side of the friend. I really started to believe that anything can happen at any moment, he just takes all these moments, he really lives there, he is really present and focused on you.
Know the moment he did it because it could all be gone tomorrow in 2020, we redeploy to northern Iraq. At this time it was a very politically sensitive area, like there wasn't much to do in terms of large combat operations, um Isis was. They basically regressed to an Insurgency level, they were hiding in big cities in these little sleeper cells. The first two missions that we would do there, we would actually roll up some pretty high value targets that were huge, like IED enablers and things like that, and there. He was just a guy, Jobba The Hut I didn't really know why he was called Jobba The Hut until we saw him.
I mean, this guy was huge now that Isis was back in that Insurgency, like a lot of the things we would do outside. of the city was more like trying to find them in these little Villages and we soon discovered that they hide in caves and tunnel systems and things like that right outside of these little Villages, the teams before us had started sending in some reports. Also, they were doing a lot of cave work on March 8, 2020. We were assigned a large cave clearing operation. They had been observing this cave system for a couple of weeks.
I have been watching them enter and exit the caves coordinating some. In a way, there was a small village at the bottom of the mountain they were on. Actually, it was our sister team that was tasked with this mission. Well, at the same time that Co started, they were about to carry out this mission and then they said: Hey man, our entire associated force is sick right now, so within two or three days we conduct rehearsals, we carry out our planning, we take part of their plan and use it as our own, there are about 24 hours left before we are about to leave, we start receiving intelligence updates. hey now there are Seven Fighters there are eight Fighters we are 12 hours out there are 12 Fighters now 8 hours out there are 13 14 15 and then we are about to insert and there are like 19 fighters on the ground now I'm not sure how but they knew we were going to come, they were all equipped, they were all ready, we ended up sending some ground elements, some snipers along with some French commandos that were with us, so they went and inserted themselves several hours before we did it with me. probably another eight of us and then 26 Iraqis, as we inserted, there was a part of the mission where they were going to attack with Cass, so with close air support they would drop bombs on every cave entrance they know.
They had seven different entrances that we knew were going to drop depending on how deep they were in the cave, whether or not they were going to kill the guys or the enemy combatants or not, a lot of times. it doesn't kill them because they know it's coming, they can hear it coming, so they dig deeper and then hide. We dropped 12,000 pounds of bombs because there were seven different caves, they dropped a couple of 2,000 pound ones and a couple of 500 pound ones like We're getting closer, we can still hear gunshots, we can still hear explosions and then it calms down and like now, like this weird creepy feeling that cleans the entire valley, there were some caves that had machines mounted on them. guns in the walls, so they had these little rat holes that they could climb up and they could basically set up these machine guns to look right down this valley towards this mountain and be able to cut us down if that's where we came from, but I just remember that There was a cave I was looking at.
I was just looking at this dust covered Dead Fighter, the gear he had, he was fully loaded, he had his, he had an M16 or so. Right next to it was an AK over here and then there was a wall mounted machine gun with a bag of ammo. I thought as a man, if we had planned this mission differently and climbed from the south side up. Through this valley we would have been swept away in a second and at this point, yes, I had a creepy feeling. I was able to see multiple different caves that we hadn't seen through Imaging or ISR, it was just strange.
It just felt strange, like there was more to this than we expected at this point and at this point the other side of the assault force is getting a little anxious, they want to do more work, the team leader decides he wants to go. to check. He sees some other caves, uh, because there are, they're everywhere, they end up splitting up and start clearing these other caves and at this point, the support of the firefighters and the other snipers that are on the other side of the on the tops of the hills They can't see that maneuver element anymore so my guys we keep working, we're setting up security at the top and we're working to get to these other cave entrances and that's when I get to this cave and I start tearing it up.
I throw a grenade there before I poke my head out and then I throw a grenade and it explodes as soon as the smoke clears. I go up there, I look and that's when I see that dead man. The Isis fighter covered in dust looked completely white as I was about to enter this cave with my partner Force, the other maneuver element had found the cave that was there at the bottom of the Ravine initially they shouted a solar panel on top of there and then they say, hey, let's go see this, and as they got closer, they tried to make a pie around it, basically, so a French commando went in one direction and then an American guy went in the other.
As soon as the French commando exposed himself, he was immediately shot. Isis opened with everything they had in that cave and I mean it sounded like H was unleashed behind me like explosions, machine guns, small arms, everything as it was, it was just wild and I was like shit so they're calling in contact 5m as a super close contact. I'm like she's fine, they've got it under control. They call a victim on the radio, who was the French victim. I didn't know. at that moment, but it's okay, they have it under control, so I'm about to start working in this cave and the next thing I hear is that there's an eagle down there, an eagle is an American service member, it's one of the ways we deconflicted on the ground and my heart immediately dropped and I was like shit and then the next thing you know not even a second later there was another Eagle falling.
I thought, oh my gosh, so I basically turned to my partner for us. Hey guys, look at how this cave does the job you need to do here. I have to go and I basically ran as safely as I could up and over this other terrain feature and I like it as I go. There are other caves that are to my left and to my right and some of them have things in them, like there were a bunch of blankets and stuff in one of them there was a bunch of trash and stuff in the other one and I It's like no.
I know who's hiding in these things, but they're not friendly if they are and I just shot a couple of bullets at them both and as I walk past and I get to the cave and it's like chaos, absolute chaos um I remember there were some Iraqis sitting there like they didn't know what to do um the guys were frozen I was like where are the casualties? What's going on? Nobody really talks, so I say, well. There are shots here. I'm going to jump in and see what happens. I'm trying to talk to him. I ask him where the casualties are, where the enemies are and their weapons just pointing in the direction, so Well, that must be where they are, so I'm going to go up here and see, and as I climb to the top of this rock, I raise my head and seat and my helmet is exposed and Then, suddenly, they started pinning me down with everything they had and I saw the cave.
I saw the entrance like the mouth of this thingIt was the most intense looking bunker I've ever seen, like the ledge from the top of this. rock that they had with all these rocks piled up and killer holes everywhere, like little holes that they could use as a gun holder to pull out their guns and shoot all of a sudden like the fire was still happening, like the shooting was still happening and these legs just fly away. in the air and I have this wild feeling that I need to run there and grab this guy, so I duck my gun and put it under my shoulder as best I can and I run and I'm emptying myself.
My charger to this cave and as I run there I grab it with my right hand and start pulling it down and they're still shooting at us like crazy and somehow neither of us got hit and I pull it. I pushed it down onto the rest of the rocks and, like I was still shooting, I ended up having to reload right there and another teammate yelled at me from above and said, "Hey, what support do you need?" Walking in I thought, dude , don't come in here right now like someone's going to die and now right now it's like I still don't know where the two American casualties are, but I know they're casualties and I'm talking to the snipers who are supporting us and they can practically see. inside the cave, you can see some of the pockets that are in there and I said, "Hey, just walk me up to the cave and I want to try to identify where the victims are, um because it was hard to tell once you were at the top." from the actual cave, but there was a dead tree that they escorted me towards when I got closer to The Edge, that's when I see my first teammate, he was dead right in front of the cave I get a little closer and then I see. to my other teammate, the only teammate who was right in front of the mouth of the cave.
I knew he was dead immediately, uh, right from the way he looked, it seemed like he was still alive, so I called his name several times as if I was whispering it and then nothing, so I went back, regained my composure and tried to think of an idea, but That's when I called the commander and said: Hello sir, this is what's happening. Mo and Diego are dead. Everyone was surprised because those two, Mo was the executive officer, so he was a captain at that time, but he was the executive officer. the company, a very high-ranking individual in a high-level position in the company and then the head of our team, the gunnery sergeant, who was like the highest enlisted person on our team.
I started coming up with these plans. I thought the only thing I can think of is As snipers, you guys need to cover me with precision fires and I'm going to go in there and try to throw some grenades and maybe get a break in the fight so I can jump in there and grab them. I was put in strange and complex situations, I trained and some other things in combat, but I have never been in that moment where I thought I didn't know what to do and that was one of those moments where I looked around and thought. it was like this guy had kids, this guy was married and had kids, this guy was young like he just started his career, like I was telling him to go find safety for me down there or I was telling him to move over here like If they were going to die if I jump down.
Here I'm going to die like I don't know what to do for a moment. There I was fighting with probably just four other guys that were there until some other guys showed up to help, so maybe for a while. For an hour or two it was just me and a couple of other guys and some French guys, but that's when I pulled back, looked behind me and I had more guys there and I thought okay, we had some. more support but what I'm doing isn't working so I called the commander and said hey I need the Apaches to come in and screw a Hellfire in here the jtac there was one on top of the hill he's just like me.
I don't have enough, say I need you to do this. I told him ok and he said I need a 10 digit grid. I need this and this, so I was basically talking to the plane and I said, hey, here's your grid and I stopped. right at the top of the cave and I read the 10-digit grid on my GPS and said, "I'm standing in the cave, do you see me?" and basically I like it and there's still shooting and stuff like that and I was like That's where you need to shoot. His cave is right under my feet.
They shoot 220 30mm grenades there basically and there is zero effect. I need something bigger. They saw how close it was. They could still see me. They could still see a couple of us. out there and say, I need you to move, you need to get up and over this thing. I was like, dude, I have very little or maybe no water right now. I'm very tired. I'm low on ammo, just shoot. The thing is, I'm not moving and he's like, "Okay, just crouch down and then go as low as you can, so okay, yeah, that was probably pretty scary, honestly, the Apache was really close and flying over this mountain and me".
I'm looking at that and then when I see it it looks like it's coming towards me because I'm so close and then when it hits the cave the snipers immediately say it has no effect so I asked the guys that were there. like shoot some Carl GS in there, we have some anti-structural munitions that would work really well in these caves because those were the grenades he was using. These ASM grenades fire two anti-structural munitions at that time. one HD DP round, a high explosive double penetration, one kind of exploded and the other two missed, so they weren't effective.
Now I have a lot more guys with me. I said, "Okay, let's all get in line," they're shooting at us from multiple different directions, so I need you to cover all these different caves on the other side of the mountain, shoot at the cave that's directly in front of us and then I'm going to get in there and I'll throw more grenades and I'll have a break in the fight and I'll jump in there and get them, we spread out along the side of the mountain and we all started pushing up in line and at that moment an Apache was flying over Us and he had just thrown up some flares and I basically used them.
I thought, "Okay, that's our tail, so we start suppressing and we're moving up and I throw two grenades at this point and like I like it, I get there." I like to start getting confident and then when I got to the very edge of the cave, I ended up getting hit with a baseball bat, just hit. I thought, oh my God, what was that? And immediately I like to go as low as possible. as I can and I crawl from the top of the cave and I look at my leg and there's a little bit of blood dripping down.
I thought oh no, I finally approached my doctor. I thought, hey man, I think I just got shot. and he says, what do you mean you think they shot you? So I pulled up my pant leg and it's already super swollen and like it's dripping with blood and he said, yeah, right, at that point I talked to the doctor and I said, "hey." Dude, don't call a metac, don't tell them anything, don't tell the commander yet, we still have work to do, let's see if we can do this. A little time passes, the pain starts to get worse, the fight is still going on and I can't push anymore, so I'm out of grenades.
I didn't have any. I was almost out of ammunition. They just wiped us out. I mean, we had been fighting for 6 hours at this point. I mean, in some. Very steep and hilly terrain as I was trying to move like they wanted to put me on a stretcher and I said no I'm not just making a shield around me basically like a little diamond around me and covering me but like me. I'm going to hold my gun. I'm going to go up this thing because the last thing I need to do is take out various weapons from the fight because we're still fighting, we finally get to the top of the Ridge and the doctor.
He comes up to me and says, man, take the paddle, it's like we already called the N line, the commander knows you're going home immediately, he had this feeling of failure because I mean, from the beginning, I helped plan the entire tactical side. I came up with it, I ran the rehearsals, I did all those things like the team trusted me to do this and then when I took over to take this, to get our guys back, I was supposed to be the one to take them out. I was supposed to do that, that's what I thought, you know, I was supposed to keep everyone safe and it didn't happen and I wanted to make sure everyone came home.
My recovery was very long, the round severed my superficial pronal nerve which is one of the main sensory nerves in his leg I developed a symptom called complex regional pain syndrome in my leg almost immediately this symptom basically takes over the sympathetic nervous system and it would just go crazy and would cause swelling, discoloration and pain, so the surgeon wanted to do reconstructive surgery to try to make everything as normal as possible. Reconstructed the anatomy so my body would no longer think it was going crazy, so they used cadaver nerves on the two sections of the nerve that were all raised.
The body didn't like that at all it rejected it completely my leg swelled up twice to normal size maybe three times I don't know what it was it was pretty gross the surgery didn't work so they tried to make an external simulator which was a The wire that ran through my leg and this battery was stuck to the side of my thigh, that was a 60 day thing, it didn't work. I think it made things worse, honestly, so they took it away from me. I had surgery three times, but I got to the point where I couldn't do much, like I couldn't wear a backpack, I couldn't wear a belt, I couldn't wear normal pants or normal boxers, like everything, the compression around my back made me It hurts so much, so I started. to talk more to my surgeon and I told him hey man, my leg hurts more than my back, my back hurts a lot.
I need to get this stimulator out and I want you to cut my leg and he says no, I have this option. If you're not going to lose motor function, we're going to do two different amputations of a smaller nerve below your ankle because that's what was causing a lot of pain in my foot and then one above, right behind your knee. I am leaving on July 10th flying out of Boseman Airport, so my surgery was scheduled for July 12th. I'm at the airport and what I normally do is the anniversary, so July 10th was the fifth anniversary of the plane crash, so I'm sitting there. drinking a beer in honor of the boys and then I got a phone call from home telling me that my best friend Zach had just died and I mean, we grew up together, we did all our mischief together, he was my neighbor for a long time.
He and I were best friends, but like every day, on July 10, I lost my mind at the airport. I started crying right there and the lady had just put the second beer in front of me and I thought, "I can see this going." There are two ways I'm going to pick this up and continue going down the rabbit hole of alcohol consumption and spiraling. I'm about to have Souther's surgery, who knows if it will work. It was scaring me. so I had a drink I said this is for you Zach now I'm done so to date I still haven't had a drink I did I've been sober for a year and 5 months but I went in and had surgery and I said this is like I'm going out I'm going to feel so much better from this I'm going to do everything I love to do 3 weeks after that surgery like I got rid of all the canes and walkers and everything and I was basically like jogging through the mountains and starting to move more every year. , a year later I did it, uh, I picked the highest peak that I could see from the back of my house and I said, I'm going to run there today, so on July 10th I ran up to this peak called Sakaia Peak.
I gained 4300 feet of elevation and then about 12 1/2 miles and tried to run most of it. I went from extreme to not being able to. wear a damn belt to say I'm not going to let this ruin my life some final words I'll leave out is you know, it doesn't matter who you are, it doesn't matter what you've done. No matter your rank or your Billet you always have a team ready to help and support you in today's times, we tend to want to keep all these things to ourselves if you don't say anything no one will be there to help you and it's something I have learned the hard way for myself yourself, so there's no reason to do this alone.

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