Army veteran Jon Arnold has had a remarkable life of public service, and he’s not even close to stopping.
Arnold, director of constituent services for Texas Rep. Will Hurd, is taking time off for a 10-day trip to Tanzania with Waterboys, a charity started by Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long. The initiative pairs disabled veterans and NFL players to raise awareness and funds for sustainable water wells in Eastern Africa.
Arnold lost his leg while on his second deployment to Iraq in April 2008. He started working for Hurd as part of the congressional Wounded Warrior Fellowship Program in 2015 and became a permanent staffer last year.
“I got out of the service before I was done serving,” Arnold said.
This Waterboys trip will mark the 32nd well the project has funded in Eastern Africa. That was Long’s goal — 32 wells for each NFL team. The veterans and players are meeting with villagers to see where they currently draw their water from and to hear their stories.
Aside from winning Super Bowls (he was on the New England Patriots’ championship-winning team the previous season), Long is known for his philanthropy. He donated all of his game checks from the 2017 regular season to education-related causes, Sports Illustrated reported. His base salary was $1 million.
In May 2015 he launched The Chris Long Foundation to raise funds for Waterboys.
As part of this trip, the Waterboys volunteers will be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. The climb is to recognize the miles African villagers must walk daily to provide water for their families.
Asking his boss for time off was easy because completing the climb is his birthday wish — he turns 40 on March 8, about a week after he returns.
“[Hurd was] very, very supportive,” Arnold said while on his way to the airport on Friday. “Our office has always been supportive of anybody doing anything outside the office to support the greater good and greater causes. I also put it in a you-can’t- tell-me-no way. This is me asking for my 40th birthday off.”
He heard about Waterboys through Nate Boyer, an Army Green Beret and NFL player who is on the trip. Boyer’s football career started when he returned from multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and walked on the team at the University of Texas at Austin, Arnold’s alma mater.
The two met at an Army ball. Sustainable water was already an issue “near and dear to my heart,” Arnold said, before Boyer mentioned the trip to him. He had been to South Africa on a trip to provide access to water before.
Aside from the goodwill, Arnold also loves football.
“I’m a huge football fan. I’m originally from California. I’m a Raiders fan,” he said. “Nate Boyer being from UT and playing on the team when I was there is insanely awesome to me.”
Another football player, Vince Young, who led Texas to a national championship and later played in the NFL, is on the trip.
“That blows my mind,” Arnold said.
Hurd’s district includes both Joint Base San Antonio and Camp Bullis, so Arnold has a kinship with many of the people Hurd represents.
“It’s a great office. I have the opportunity to help so many veterans and military officers,” he said.