Written by Hanna Schutte ’11
As a college junior, Wes Jones ’11 is anything but stereotypical.
Barely into his 20’s, Jones has already saved 11 lives through his work with the Coast Guard. He has had a lifelong drive and passion for doing good in the world, which has led Jones to pursue many interests and community-minded projects. During his time at Gustavus, his goals of working to make the world a better place haven’t slowed down one bit.
A political science major and history minor, Jones is actively involved with the Peer Assistants, the Epsilon Phi Alpha fraternity, and the men’s swim team. “The Peer Assistants and the Eppies have been wonderful in allowing me to implement my skills and strengths to give back to the community. The Eppies and the PAs have taught me how valuable group work and interaction within the student body can be in making St. Peter and Gustavus a better place,” says Jones.
Jones didn’t waste any time working to make the most of his college experience. During his first semester at Gustavus in a communication studies class called Public Discourse, Jones made a difference on a topic that was very close to him.
“My Public Discourse assignment for Kris Kracht’s class was to research why New Orleans was not rebuilt over two years after hurricane Katrina devastated the city,” says Jones. “I connected with and met local and national authors, the New Orleans FEMA representative, a film producer from the Discovery Channel, New Orleans firefighters and police officers, Coast Guard pilots and rescue swimmers, and walked door to door in flooded areas to interview residents. I was able to compile an in-depth analysis of the events that took place when the levees broke. I heard stories of families lost or killed in the flood waters, I took pictures from a helicopter and by land of the destroyed areas, and I learned what we, as students, could do to help.”
With his extensive research, Jones compiled a presentation, which he delivered to a captivated standing-room only Gustavus audience. “I was passionate about this project because I lived in New Orleans when Katrina struck. Hopefully, my presentation had an impact on the Gustavus New Orleans Habitat for Humanity group that went down to rebuild over Spring Break that year. That was my intent.”
In addition to making improvements in what he sees around him at school, Jones is also extremely active as a Third Class Petty Officer in the U.S. Coast Guard. This past summer, he spent four months serving at a Search and Rescue station on Lake Michigan.
As a Boatswain’s Mate, his main tasks include medical evacuations, responding to sinking boats, and searching for people lost in adverse weather. He, along with his fellow Coast Guard crewmembers, helped in countless situations and saved 11 people from life-or-death situations. Jones talked about two of his experiences while on the lake:
“In late June we responded to a boat fire on the east side of Green Bay. After arriving on the scene in less than three minutes, we removed a 6-year-old boy, 10 year-old-girl, and their parents from harm’s way.”
The second experience was just as dramatic. “At around 8 in the morning we received a radio message saying ‘Coast Guard, we are sinking north of Green Island!’ Three crewmen and I launched our fast response boat and navigated to the scene in less than 20 minutes. Upon arrival, we immediately began ‘dewatering’ the sinking vessel, ultimately saving the two crew.”
Having had so many amazing experiences already, Jones is looking forward to the future. “I want to make a career out of the Coast Guard as an officer and a Search and Rescue helicopter pilot. I knew after my first big search and rescue mission that devoting my life to helping others in need was my calling. The only thing more thrilling than searching through the night in howling winds, pounding waves and low visibility in search of lost mariners is for the survivors to look at you afterward and say ‘Thank you for saving my life.’”