The sniper's bullet hit Sgt. Jacob Jones in the left shoulder, severely bruising his clavicle. He never saw the bullet coming, although he and his unit were always wary, careful to look down every side street and alley, around every corner, in every shadow, always looking for the enemy. The heat rising from the streets of Mosul, Iraq, distorted the images in front of their eyes, and it was difficult to tell who the enemy was, until it was too late. Jones felt only the searing pain in his shoulder, and then heard the gunshot.
For nearly a year, eight to 14 hours a day, seven days a week, Jones patrolled those hot streets, sun beating down during the summer, cold winds swirling around in the winter, carrying 50 pounds of gear and his rifle, searching for insurgents, sometimes clearing an intersection of the rubble from a suicide bomber.
"Iraq was a dangerous place," said Jones, speaking by phone from his home in Medford. "We were always looking over our shoulders. It's hard to distinguish the good from the bad there. Without the prayers of all those back here in the states, I don't know if I'd be here right now."
That sniper's bullet ended his four-year military career, earning him a Purple Heart and an honorable discharge. He returned to the states late last year, ready to get on with the rest of his life.
"I am just really proud to have served my country in this time of hostility and war," Jones said in a message he wrote to the Eagle. "It's hard to see exactly how good life is until everything is taken away."
When Jones graduated from Prairie City High School in 1999, he had no idea that he would be in Iraq a few years later. He spent a year studying at Wyotech, a technical institute in Wyoming, before enlisting in the infantry.
He became an infantryman in the Army, and started training in Yakima, Wash., training that continued in California, Nevada and Louisiana. He was stationed at Fort Lewis, in Tacoma, Wash., for three years before being deployed to Iraq in November 2003.
The Purple Heart was one of many honors that Jones earned while in uniform. He also received the Expert Infantryman's badge, the Combat Infantryman's badge, two Army Commendation medals, two Army Achievement medals, a Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary medal, a Global War on Terrorism Service medal, an Army Service Ribbon and a Good Conduct medal.
"I'd like to thank my parents, Patty and Larry Jones, for all their support and prayers, and my sister, Nicole, and my wife, Lisa, who kept me safe with her prayers," Jones said.
Jones and Lisa live in Medford. He plans to attend Oregon Institute of Technology in the fall.
"I'm proud to be born in the U.S.," Jones said.