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Riding for veterans: Cowboy dismounts in Sauk Valley

August 3, 2016 GMT

AMBOY – What Tony Jones plans to unload in the nation’s capital can’t fit in any saddle bag.

On a ride halfway across the nation, the 54-year-old cowboy from Fort Pierre, South Dakota, is gathering stories from thousands of veterans to share in Washington, D.C., while raising funds and awareness for veterans along the way.

Jones and three horses – JT, Charlie and Semper Fi – visited with veterans and community members in Dixon and Amboy during the past few days, and he plans to travel south to Mendota and LaSalle this week.

“We are a country defended by heroes, and if we don’t take care of our heroes, then we don’t deserve them,” Jones said.

He began the 1,500-mile Cowboys Ride for Veterans Awareness in Fort Pierre on June 5; he aims to reach D.C. by late September or early October, taking a lax pace for the horses.

“At 3 miles per hour, you get a chance to see a lot of good things,” he said. “I probably look like someone at the Daytona 500 riding a moped.”

Organizations, veterans and community members across South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois have accommodated Jones and his horses during the journey, including the Dixon VFW and Del Nutter of the Green River Saddle Club in Amboy.

“It’s a neat deal what he’s doing,” Nutter said. “He’s devoting a lot of time to this.”

In addition to stories, Jones is also carrying unit patches given to him from veterans as well as a U.S. flag that flew in Afghanistan, which he plans to have a veteran unfurl in D.C.

Jones is raising money for the Semper Fi Fund, a national nonprofit that helps wounded veterans.

He’s got a modest take on the feat: “If you don’t roll your sleeves up, you’re not going to accomplish anything.”