LEXINGTON, VA (WWBT)- College commencement season is here and that means many graduates are ready to take on the challenges of the world. But one Midlothian man has already taken on a great deal of responsibility before he even received his diploma.
VMI student and U.S Marine Sgt. Daniel Jones had yet to even graduate, but was already receiving special accolades by one of the most powerful people in armed forces.
"He almost lost his leg," said Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "But with exceptional drive and resilience, will be walk across this stage with his classmates today."
Sgt. Jones is a Midlothian native, and a war hero. His two tours in Afghanistan came close to robbing him of his ability to walk, but as Admiral Mullen, pointed out, you wouldn't know it as he walked across the stage to accept his diploma.
"It's been a long journey but it's been great," said Jones. "It's made me a better person."
That journey took much longer than most of his classmates. His two deployments took him away from his classes, turning his four years of school into seven. It was a goal he refused to abandon.
"They were so supportive when I was injured and even when I was gone," said Jones. "Today's an awesome day and I'm truly humbled. It's a true honor and I'll never forget today."
A day that came after being on the front lines of a bloody war, and something he is reminded of, even as he grips the diploma he worked so hard to achieve. His hand was left with a huge knot from a skin graft. The knot will one day be gone, but for now, it is an unmistakable sign of his service to his country.
"I'm doing great. I'm running. I'm walking across the stage and I don't know, maybe I'll be back in the fight one day," said Jones.
An inspiration to his classmates, something they can take with them as they head overseas into that same danger zone.
246 cadets graduated from VMI. 57% of them will be commissioned into the armed forces. It is the school's highest percentage in 20 years.