Wounded veteran helps troubled teens turn their lives around - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Wounded veteran helps troubled teens turn their lives around

Randall and his service dog Gunny. (Photo source: WLOX News) Randall and his service dog Gunny. (Photo source: WLOX News)

A wounded veteran from Lucedale is turning his war experience into a lesson for today's youth. On Tuesday, he spoke to a group of Harrison County students who've been in trouble for fighting, drugs, or other misconduct in class.

"I'm in this window seat right here," Randall Jones said as he pointed to the military vehicle in the video.

It was August, 2010. Jones was on patrol in Afghanistan. A camera from another vehicle captured those dramatic moments when a bomb suddenly exploded under Jones' vehicle.

Jones survived that attack with no physical injuries. But two weeks later, while digging up IEDs, he endured another blast.

"Blew me to the top of the vehicle," Jones said.

Jones suffered lower back pain and traumatic brain injury. He shared his painful experience with 20 male students at the Harrison County Alternative School.

"There were times I wanted to take meds and I wanted to do bad things to people and I wanted to do bad things to myself, but guys, that's not the answer," he told the class.

Jones took his anger and redirected it to something positive. Last year, he founded "Mac's Place" in honor of his battle buddy James McElroy. "Mac's Place" provides outdoor activities for Wounded Warriors of Mississippi and their families. Now, Jones wants to offer the program to teenagers.

"Maybe they don't have a big brother in life, maybe offer that to them. They got somebody they can call and we get the opportunity to take them fishing or something," said Jones.

"I think he sets a good example and role model for us younger students, and as young men," said 15-year-old Matthew Seals.

Jones also introduced his service dog Gunny. He said whenever he feels anxious or angry, Gunny would lick his face to calm him down.

"I'm sure I aggravate him and stress him out sometimes," Jones said with a laugh.

"It's good that he's looking out for kids, teenagers. He's trying to turn people's lives around and that's really good. And he's got his little dog over there. I like his dog. It's a cute dog," said 17-year-old Noah Barnett.

The Lucedale veteran and his canine companion have found a new mission, to help troubled youth find their own purpose in life.

"I hope they realize that it's not the end. There's something out there better, but you're going to have to work for it. Nobody's going to give you anything," said Jones.

Jones plans to speak to more schools to spread the word about the program. He is in the process of setting up a website, but you can find "Mac's Place" on Facebook.

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