WASHINGTON – “I came from a troubled background,” said Jones. “My mom was a drug addict, and my father was in the streets and was murdered. I had to separate myself from that life a lot. I knew that wasn't going to be my life. I didn't know how I was going to get where I am today, but I always knew I was going to be different.”
At the age of 7, Jones and her baby brother were removed from their home and placed with their adoptive mother - a single mom who was already raising five children of her own. In high school, Jones rebelled and was sentenced to unsupervised probation for committing a misdemeanor. She dropped out of high school, became pregnant and had her son when she was 18 years old.
“Once I had my son things started getting really serious,” she said. “I was in the working world, my son's dad and I were separated and I was pretty much homeless, so a good friend gave me some advice. He asked what I wanted to do, because I was in this really bad situation. I said, ‘well I wanted to be a police officer or maybe the military,' so he started researching for me.”
Jones decided to join the military due to her background as a child. She was a part of the Young Marines program growing up, and she participated in the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) program in high school, so she thought the military would be a good fit for her.
Jones visited a military recruiter in 2006 and took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). She failed. She was 24 years old at the time, and she had forgotten basic math and other skills needed to pass the test. However, she didn't want to give up, so she studied and retook the test 30 days later. This time she passed, but her score improved so much that she had to take the test again to confirm that she hadn't cheated. She passed again and was ready to ship out to Navy basic training.
“I quit my job and set my son up with my mom,” she said. “The day I was supposed to leave, my [finger] prints came back flagged. I was still on probation from my misdemeanor so the Navy discharged me before I even left for basic training.”
Jones talked to the judge and convinced him that if he released her from her probation, the Navy would make sure she stayed out of trouble. The judge dismissed the charges, and two weeks later she arrived at boot camp. Her son was 6 at the time, and she said although it was very hard to leave him, she knew she was making the right decision.
After basic training, Jones was stationed on a ship for five years as a Ship's Serviceman, making it difficult for her to see her school-age son, but she kept telling herself that she was doing this for him.
“When I came into the Navy, they asked what I wanted to do, and I said I wanted to do something with business. So they sent me to school to learn bookkeeping and records. We ran the laundry, the dry cleaning, and all the stores that are on the ship - just like you have an NEX [Navy Exchange]. We have those on the ships as well.”
Jones excelled at her new career. She learned barbering and became the “VIP barber.” She deployed twice while on ship in support of both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. In August 2011, she was selected as a candidate for the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB) – a role she held for three years.
In late 2013, Jones was excited when she received orders for another ship, but that excitement was short-lived, because she contracted meningitis.
“I want to go back to sea,” she said. “But I'm still going through recovery, and I don't qualify to go on a ship, since I'm still going through the treatments. I had to give up my orders, so I'm temporarily here [at JBAB].”
In her current capacity, Jones is assigned to the Ceremonial Guard, but works in the Naval District Washington (NDW) Casualty and Funerals office. Her team is in charge of training Navy personnel throughout the NDW region on how to properly render funeral honors.
“The Ceremonial Guard usually does all the funerals, but it's too many,” said Jones. “We don't have enough people to cover all of the funerals in the area, so we may assign a funeral team at another base or command. If they've never done one before, then we train them. We teach them flag folding and how to play taps on the bugle. We also provide mentorship. We explain the importance of the program and how it's all of our responsibility to pay respect to our fallen Sailors.”
For the first time in her life, Jones said she's stable. She's currently a junior in college, majoring in criminal justice, and she's thinking about law school. But no matter what happens, she's proud of herself and the life she has made for her son.
“I'm giving my GI Bill to him, so his life will be 100 percent different than mine,” she said with a smile. “He's 14 years old, and we're just now able to have a normal life. I want him to make good decisions and not struggle or go through what I did. I want him to go to college and be a normal teenager, and basically have the life that I didn't.”
Jones said that although she's ready to be on a ship again, she thinks she might be in the right place at the right time.
“It may be corny, but I believe everything happens for a reason. There's a lot of poverty here in Washington and a lot of teen pregnancy. I want other girls, going through what I went through to understand that you can always change your future. Don't take the path I took. It's not worth it.”
She said she credits the Navy with changing her future, and she encourages other young people to think about the military as a career.
“I don't think the Navy can ever be a wrong choice,” she said. “I think you can grow a lot here, and it can give you your start. It doesn't matter if your dream is to stay in the Navy, or if it's to go on and do bigger and better things, as long as you stay positive and continue to believe in yourself, anything is possible.”
Article and Photo by Michelle Gordon
Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling
Provided through DVIDS
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