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On May fourth, two families, the nation, the State of Washington, the Yakama Tribe of White Swan, WA, and the Gila River Tribe of Blackwater, AZ, buried yet another son and veteran killed in Afghanistan. Lance Corporal Joe Jackson was young and full of life and of life’s potential promises, but he died as the result of wounds received after falling on an IED land mine while on patrol with his unit in Afghanistan.
Joe Jackson’s story is like that of all of those who left homes, families and friends to join the Marine Corps. He joined to serve the nation, and to fight against the forces of terrorism so wildly and troublingly present in our world today. But his story is as unique as his individual humanity and that of his personal history.
Joe was adopted by the Marceau family of White Swan on the Yakama Indian Reservation, in the Yakima Valley of the state of Washington. He was proud of his adoptive family, his small town, and the life he had there. His adoptive People, the Yakamas, made him one of them, as is the tradition of the Indian peoples of North America. He grew up among them and came to know the world through the prisms of the Marceau family and of the Yakama Nation. His ideals were shaped by warrior traditions, both his Native American tribal roots and the American experience.
Growing up with the ironies of being an American Indian in the United States, he had more than enough reasons to reject the larger society for its historical effects on American Indian life and culture. But he chose not to reject the good in American society; indeed he embraced it and chose to fight and die for that good. As an American Indian in this country, he knew intimately the history of that relationship, yet he was able to rise above that, to transcend that history and to offer himself for a good beyond himself. His was the ultimate sacrifice. He died in the uniform of the United States Marine Corps.
The loss of Joe Jackson is indescribable. We have all lost a treasure of priceless value, a pearl of great price. Each soldier, sailor, airman and Marine takes an oath when he or she enters the service. That oath is an unbreakable promise to offer everything, even one’s life, to protect and defend the Constitution of The United States; not the President, not the Congress, not even the People, but the ideals and the values enshrined in the Constitution. Joe Jackson took that oath and honored it with his life. We owe him more than our thanks. We owe him the honor of our memory. We must tell his story to teach the young about duty and honor, and self-sacrifice. Thank you, Joe Jackson. We honor you.