I am in constant receipt of input from fellow veterans, friends, loyal Signal newspaper subscribers, etc., and retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. David M. Jackson came to my attention from a good friend and veteran, City Councilman Bob Kellar. It was a genuine pleasure meeting this fine patriot recently over lunch at Valencia’s Corner Bakery.
On the Road Again
David M. Jackson was born in Costa Rica on May 6, 1970. At the time, Dave’s father, a lead engineer for the Standard Food Co., had been assigned to Costa Rica and ultimately he moved his young family numerous times while taking on a host of new projects. At age 3, Dave’s family moved to Canton, Ohio, for four years before relocating to Rota Island, known as “Friendly Island,” near Guam. But soon, the Jackson family was on the move again, relocating back to Canton, Ohio, until Dave entered the 9th grade. Next, they relocated to Largo, Florida, where Dave graduated from Osceola High School June 6, 1989. During high school, Dave was a weight lifter and lettered in football and wrestling, and he was Osceola’s treasurer and president of the Spanish Club, all of which earned him the Walt Disney Dreamers and Doers Leadership Award.
Three Football Scholarships
Following high school graduation, Dave received three college football scholarship offers, which led him to attending Kemper Military School and College in Boonville, Missouri. Having lived in the boonies (pun intended) most of his life, one would think that this was just perfect, but no. Dave was plenty ready for football, but academics not so much, so after one semester he returned home to Largo and his disappointed dad. However, on Sept. 25, 1989, Dave enlisted with the U.S. Army Reserves and took his basic training and advanced individual training at Fort McClellan, Alabama. Fort McClellan, established in 1898, became home to the Army’s Military Police School after World War II. Dave’s training there was the very beginning of a long, distinguished, exhilarating, and sometimes morbid military career.
Operation Desert Storm
After Fort McClellan, in April 1990, Dave resumed his college education in a summer course at St. Petersburg Junior College. However, Saddam Hussein’s invasion into Kuwait abruptly postponed his studies. Dave, a young private first class M-60 machine gunner, with his Military Police unit was ordered to Fort Stewart, Georgia, for preparation and rapid deployment to Saudi Arabia. Soon, they were fully engaged in our 100-day war, known as Operation Desert Storm, ousting and obliterating Iraqi forces that had brutalized and plundered Kuwait’s citizenry. Serving on the forward edge of the battlefield, Dave’s unit, with minimal casualties, took numerous prisoners of war, many of whom were all too happy to survive our superior military might.
Medal shown is David M. Jackson’s Kuwait Liberation Medal.
In May 1991, Dave returned home from Iraq and resumed his education but in December 1992, he enlisted on active duty with the U.S. Army’s 230th Military Police Company. For the next two years Dave served in Kaiserslautern (repeat that three times), Germany, where he attended Air Assault School rappelling from helicopters. Dave’s unit’s primary responsibility was providing security for Lt. Gen. William Gus Pagonis, who was acknowledged by Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf for masterminding the Gulf War’s logistics. In October 1993, Dave was assigned to Landstuhl Air Base to provide security for Black Hawk helicopter pilot Michael Durant, who had been famously shot down during the Battle of Mogadishu, Somalia, in October 1993. You may recall the 2001 Academy Award movie “Black Hawk Down” that featured Durant’s capture.
Dave was sent to Zaire, Africa, on July 24, 1994, for only one month but this assignment and his subsequent horrific experiences proved to be the most difficult of his entire military career. Dave’s unit was responsible for securing a water purification operation that would largely stabilize the Goma region during their rampant genocide. Up to 1.2 million people were killed during Rwanda’s mass slaughter due to political warfare between the Tutsi’s and Hutus’ tribes. Approximately 2 million Rwandans became refugees. Dave expressed emotionally, “I was aghast observing so many savage machete killings and bodies thrown into the very lake we were attempting to purify. Rwanda was an absolute nightmare and periodically we conducted mass burials of up to 500 bodies at a time.”
Prison from Hell
By December 1994, Buck Sgt. David Jackson was back to the U.S. with the 118th Airborne MP Company at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he graduated from jump school two months later. This MP unit remains one of the Army’s very few Airborne Military Police units. Dave’s cushy job jumping out of airplanes (yikes) suddenly ended in June 1995 when he was sent to Port-au-Prince, Haiti on another law enforcement assignment. Once again a political uprising required U.S. troops to act as peacekeepers to enable restoration of democracy. Gen. Joseph Raoul Cédras led an illegitimate coup ousting duly elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide which led to this intervention. Dave recalls pulling security at the city’s infamous prison, known as “Haiti’s Prison from Hell” in which Cell Block 7 was seriously overcrowded. Dave said, “When I saw cell block 7 and how incredibly small it was and extremely crowded with 135 people, including three dead bodies and only 10 disgusting cots, I almost lost it.”
Six years of U.S. Army service brought a keen sense of focus on the importance of education to Dave. Hence, he left the Army with an honorable discharge in hand to resume his studies at St. Petersburg Junior College. However, after eight months Dave seriously missed Army life so he re-enlisted in August 1996 with the Florida National Guard’s 20th Special Forces. In May 1997, Dave moved to Tempe to attend Arizona State University and he joined Arizona’s National Guard 855th Military Police Company. In 1999, Dave’s unit deployed for one month to Honduras following the devastating hurricane Mitch to provide security for Army engineers who were rebuilding Honduras. Then it was back to ASU where he received his bachelor of science degree in justice studies in August 1999. In 2013, Dave earned his master of leadership degree from the University of Southern California.
In June 1998, Dave inadvertently met the love of his life, Lynette Brabant, in Anchorage, Alaska, during the city’s annual 26-mile marathon. When he spotted her during pre-race activities he was instantly smitten and little did he know that they coincidentally lived only five minutes apart in Tempe. While the race was underway, Dave, feeling very cocky about his physical conditioning, spotted Lynette ahead at mile 13 so he promptly caught up and ran and chatted next to her. Embarrassingly at mile 20, Dave ran out of gas and practically collapsed; Lynette gallantly charged on and waited and waited for Dave at the finish line. Soon, Dave and Lynette were dating, which led to their marriage on Aug. 13, 2000, in Jerome, Arizona.
Officer Candidate School
Immediately following their marriage, Dave landed a great job but he still missed Army life so one year later he was off to Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia. On Dec. 14, 2000, he was commissioned 2nd Lt. David M. Jackson, gradating as a distinguished military graduate. Throughout his Army officer career, Dave took numerous training courses such as Airborne School, Air Assault School, etc., which led to one promotion after the next. Dave’s deployments to Kitzingen, Germany, Operation Joint Guardian in Kosovo, and Operation Iraqi Freedom led to an exhilarating and successful long Army career. Dave served as battalion head recruiting officer at the University of Southern California’s Army ROTC program, which included an additional role as assistant professor of military science. Dave retired and received his second honorable discharge on Sept. 30, 2016. During David M. Jackson’s long and distinguished 27-year career, he earned these awards, among others: Combat Action Badge, Parachutist Badge, 4 Meritorious Service Medals, 7 Army Commendation Medals, 5 Army Achievement Medals, National Defense Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Kuwait Liberation Medal, Kosovo Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, etc.
Epitome of Santa Clarita’s Spirit
Dave went to great lengths explaining how exceptionally proud he is of his military service and in particular the Army’s vast humanitarian contributions around the world. Dave said, “Our U.S. military doesn’t merely exist to wage war, kill bad people and destroy things. Rather, we have provided freedom and safety for untold millions of people.” These days, Dave and his wonderful wife Lynette volunteer with “Love My Neighbor,” a program on skid row that provides clothing and meals for the homeless. They’re also active with “Wagging Tails,” a nonprofit all-breed dog rescue program that places dogs and cats with new owners. Dave volunteers for our Veterans Center in Newhall and he’s currently pursuing his real estate license while pursuing new employment opportunities here in Santa Clarita. Dave and Lynette, along with their talented daughters, represent the epitome of Santa Clarita’s character, which is well known for supporting its military, veterans and numerous active charity organizations.
Dave, you are truly a great American; thank you for your service.