Back when I was 13, I discovered a massive loophole in the Virginia public education system. It’s at this young age when I realized that teachers would let you get out of doing “real” homework if you just made a movie that somehow related to the assignment. That report on the Canterbury Tales? Go out to the woods, put mud on your face, speak in a funny accent, and hit record. The physics project on electricity and conduction? Put on a few of your Dad’s lab coats and make a fake science show (real test tubes and all)! Then, just load the footage into your beast of a computer (512mb of RAM!), mess around in Windows Movie Maker for a few hours, and voilà—easy A!
I guess what I’m getting at here is that I’ve always wanted to be a storyteller—or at the very least pretend to be a storyteller. I’d watch movies on repeat, quoting lines ad nauseum. I’d analyze them, critique them, study them. And, back at the time when I realized I could trade amateur cinema for good grades, I was lucky enough to befriend someone who was just crazy enough to help me tell stories with a camera. His name is Rob Jones.
Describing Rob in a few words doesn’t seem fair, but I’ll try. He’s quirky. He’s funny. He’s smart. He’s got one of the best memories of anyone I know. But, above all, I’d describe him as optimistic. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever met a person as positive as Rob. I guess that’s why he was always so willing to help me out with my amateur productions. And, help he did. No role to small. No script too bad. Pretend to get run over by a car? Rob’s got that one down. Need to reenact a Civil War hanging? Rob did that too. Hit man? Mystical ghost? Monopoly champion? Rob played them all. In my short years, I’ve come to realize that some things just make you friends for life. Shooting bad movies together when you’re 14 is one of them.
On July 22nd 2010, Rob lost his legs when he was struck by an IED in Afghanistan. He joined the Marines back in 2007 while still in school at Virginia Tech. As soon as I heard the news, I became determined to tell his story. After all, I really couldn’t think to do much else.
Over the past year, as I compiled a narrative documenting Rob’s recovery, I’ve come to understand an innate truth—real life is the greatest storyteller. I know that sounds cliché, but hey, it’s true. In all my short years, I’ve been attempting to manufacture entertaining stories to make my movies. But, here, right in front of my eyes was a story better than any I had told before. And, I didn’t have to make up a lick of it.
So, although we’ve grown up a bit since I waved my cheap camcorder in Rob’s face at 13, he’s still helping me tell stories. In fact, he has given me the perfect one—his own. A tale of strength, of courage, of persistence, and heart. I feel awful that my good friend lost his legs. But, if there is one positive to come of the entire ordeal, it’s his journey of recovery—a narrative, that coupled with Rob’s words-defying optimism, is so very inspiring. Shortly after he got his senses back and Rob started his recovery process at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, he described his situation and eventual road to recovery all very succinctly: “Survive. Recover. Live.”
With those three simple words, Rob, unwittingly, had given a title to his journey—of the short documentary I have made to tell his story.
On July 22nd 2011—one year exactly from the date in which he sustained his injuries—I will be showing the film at the very high school where he helped me barter cinematic tomfoolery for passing grades.
I invite you to come.
All my life I have been attempting to tell stories. This time honor me with your presence as I attempt to tell Rob’s.
Survive. Recover. Live.
July 22nd at 7:30pm
Loudoun Valley High School Auditorium
340 N. Maple Avenue
Purcellville, Virginia 20132
$5 entry fee (all proceeds go to Wounded Warrior Project)