How a Wonderful Gentleman Brightened my day

In good spirits MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash.— Gen. Duncan McNabb, Air Mobility Command commander, congratulates Medal of Honor recipient, retired Col. Joe Jackson, during the naming of a McChord C-17 Globemaster III as the Spirit of Col. Joe M. Jackson recently. U.S. Air Force/Photo by Abner GuzmanThis morning I really didn’t feel like getting on an airplane and traveling for 4 hours.  Also, I had not received an upgrade to 1st class by the time I arrived at the airport.  I just wasn’t a very happy camper.

I did receive the 1st class upgrade just before boarding.  My day brightened immediately.  What I didn’t know how much more my day would be mean by receiving this upgrade.  I went and stood by the poll close to the Priority Boarding area.  The ticket agent pre-boarded a lady in a wheel chair and a spry, elderly gentlemen with a white tipped cane for the visually impaired.

When I arrived at my seat the spry, elderly gentleman was my seat mate.  He was so very pleasant from the beginning.  He was concerned with helping me get my stuff settled and wanting to know if I needed his blanket.  While the other passengers were boarding we struck up a conversation.

He inquired as to whether I lived in Dallas or Seattle.  Well as a native Fort Worthian I can never say I live in Dallas.  We had a laugh over that.  I told him the purpose of my trip to Seattle and said I was looking forward to the cooler weather.

I inquired about why he had been in Dallas.  He quietly explained that his trip had been two fold.  His hometown of Newnan, Ga has commissioned an artist in the Dallas area to do a statue of him and he was there for his first sitting.  Also, his son lives in Dallas and he took this opportunity to spend some time with him.  My response was, “Well I must be sitting next to someone very important if their hometown is having a statue done”.  He was more interested in knowing if I knew where Newnan, Ga was than why they had commissioned a statue.  When I said I didn’t know where it was, he explained that it was a suburb of Atlanta.

I asked again why the statue had been commissioned.  He explained to me that he was a Medal of Honor Recipient and that another soldier also from his hometown had received a Medal of Honor at the same time and that they were both being honored in this way.  Before we de-planed I asked his name.  I told him how I had so enjoyed meeting him and visiting with him today.

When I got to my room this afternoon I did some research on this gentleman.  Such modesty and humility from someone who has risked so much for us and also achieved so much.  Mr. Jackson is 86 years old.  Even with impaired vision he gets around better than I do and he is old enough to be my Father.  Here is a little information on this wonderful American.


Rank and organization: Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Air Force, 311th Air Commando Squadron, Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam. Place and date: Kham Duc, Republic of Vietnam, 12 May 1968. Entered service at: Newman, Ga. Born: 14 March 1923, Newman, Ga. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Lt. Col. Jackson distinguished himself as pilot of a C-123 aircraft. Lt. Col. Jackson volunteered to attempt the rescue of a 3-man USAF Combat Control Team from the special forces camp at Kham Duc. Hostile forces had overrun the forward outpost and established gun positions on the airstrip. They were raking the camp with small arms, mortars, light and heavy automatic weapons, and recoilless rifle fire. The camp was engulfed in flames and ammunition dumps were continuously exploding and littering the runway with debris. In addition, 8 aircraft had been destroyed by the intense enemy fire and 1 aircraft remained on the runway reducing its usable length to only 2,200 feet. To further complicate the landing, the weather was deteriorating rapidly, thereby permitting only 1 air strike prior to his landing. Although fully aware of the extreme danger and likely failure of such an attempt. Lt. Col. Jackson elected to land his aircraft and attempt to rescue. Displaying superb airmanship and extraordinary heroism, he landed his aircraft near the point where the combat control team was reported to be hiding. While on the ground, his aircraft was the target of intense hostile fire. A rocket landed in front of the nose of the aircraft but failed to explode. Once the combat control team was aboard, Lt. Col. Jackson succeeded in getting airborne despite the hostile fire directed across the runway in front of his aircraft. Lt. Col. Jackson’s profound concern for his fellowmen, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself, and the Armed Forces of his country.

At the you can read about “Newnan native Jackson escorts Obama at Arlington ceremony”.  My life was truly enriched today by being able to meet and visit with this individual.  This is one of the reasons I like celebrating “The Glamour of the Road”.

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  • How memorable a flight for you, Pat. How great to meet such a remarkable man. What a gift!

    • I agree. Most people in 1st class are just hung up on how important they are and being in a hurry. It is a rare treat to meet and be able to visit with such a wonderful person.

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  • Have you been able to send this honorarium to him?

    • Ellen, I have contacted his hometown newspaper as I know they know how to get in touch with him. I plan to check back with them next week to see if they have done so.

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