Veteran Who Lost Both Legs, Part of Arm Now Builds Custom Wheelchairs for Others with Disabilities
"Ever since I was a kid I would tinker and build stuff, I worked on cars and motorcycles, and when I got hurt I had to reassess what to do with my life, so I went to welding school," Terrence "Bo" Jones tells PEOPLE
Terrence “Bo” Jones has always been good at building things.
“Ever since I was a kid I would tinker and build stuff, I worked on cars and motorcycles, and when I got hurt I had to reassess what to do with my life, so I went to welding school,” Jones tells PEOPLE.
“Got hurt” is the 27-year-old army veteran’s quiet way of explaining that he lost both of his legs and much of his left arm when he stepped on an IED (improvised explosive device) while serving in Afghanistan.
It was February 2012 and Jones was out on patrol on one of the last days of an 11-month tour when the explosion happened. In the seven years since, he’s had more than 130 surgeries and doctors are still working to fix his arm.
Despite his injuries, Jones now works building custom wheelchairs for others with disabilities — like Shane Gumby.
“Bo is selfless. He doesn’t worry about himself, it’s always what he can do to help someone else,” Gumby — who lost his left leg in an accident — tells PEOPLE. Gumby, 30, got one of the chairs Jones worked on for the company Box Wheelchairs.
According to Jones, Box Wheelchairs‘ owner often donates or heavily discounts the chairs to people who can’t afford them. In fact, he gifted Jones with a chair — and then hired him.
Gumby, who also lives in Texas, initially met Jones on a duck hunt for disabled sportsmen with the non-profit group Hell or High Water Outdoors (Jones is also a volunteer guide).
“Bo had an impact on me from the first day I met him,” Gumby tells PEOPLE. “I looked at him and realized I shouldn’t be worried about losing a leg when you see all that he’s been through and his attitude.”
Jones says crafting the chairs is therapy for him — and surprisingly, he tells PEOPLE, it’s easy work. He balances the metal between his right hand and what’s left of his left hand, using one of his stumps to push the foot pedal of the main machine he works with.
“He makes you realize that nobody can limit you,” Gumby says. “Bo showed me you can go as far as you want to.”
Even Jones’ longtime doctor — who helped save his arm — is amazed at all that he does.
Dr. Joseph Hsu, the director of Limb Lengthening and Deformity Services at Atrium Health in Charlotte, North Carolina, tells PEOPLE, “I think I get more from Bo than he gets from me.”
“He’s an incredible person. You see the challenge he has in his own life and he pushes through them and wants to focus on helping others rather than feeling sorry for himself. To me that’s really inspirational.”
Jones does it all with a very dry sense of humor, often joking to people that while he had hoped to be a green beret, he “blew it…”
Jokes aside, Jones has worked hard to chart a new path, admitting that there were times he thought about taking his own life.
Now, he says through building the wheelchairs he’s found a new purpose, and hopes to help other veterans do the same.
“I’m just a simple guy but I figured out that I needed a goal, a mission,” Jones tells PEOPLE. “You gotta keep your head up if you’re a veteran. Life always gets better and I want to help veterans see that. You just need to find a goal and drive for it.”