Lest We Forget was originally published on May 30, 2011. It was written in honor of my brother, David Jackson, and the men who died with him one night in Vietnam. This piece is a reminder and an update on David’s life, and celebrate the fact his name lives on through a great-nephew he never had the opportunity to know, Jackson David Long.
Last week, Monday, May 24, 2021, marked fifty-two years and sixty-three days since Spec. 5 David Charles Marshall Jackson and thirteen other souls lay dead or dying in Cu Chi, Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam. It was also the day his namesake, graduated from high school.
Jackson is more than a namesake. In many ways, he is much like the great uncle he knows only through stories and memorabilia. Like David, he is adventurous, loves horses, and is a bit of a maverick, though a well-mannered maverick. Also, he is not quite the risk-taker David was, as far as I know at least.
On the other hand, he and his uncle would understand each other when it comes to the ladies. Both captured the heart of a slightly older woman before leaving high school. Where they differ is in goal setting and follow-through. Jackson has a career in mind and soon starts working and training in that field. David, as you will read below had a bit of a problem in school and planning his future.
David and the others who fell on that February day in 1969 were killed when Vietnamese forces overran their camp. The enemy sappers were successful, destroying 12 Chinook helicopters. Details of the firefight are hard to come by, but one source stated Specialist Jackson was actively engaged in the fight when he was felled.
David did not need to die on that dark February night. At least, he did not need to die in Vietnam. He started his military career in Germany. He could have stayed there and completed his enlistment there if he wished. However, David was never one to pass up a good fight, and he grew tired of the spit, polish, and boredom of serving in Europe. After a few months, he volunteered for Vietnam, setting boots on the ground April 9, 1968.
David came by his desire for change and action honestly. His childhood was, to say the least, a little unstable. While some folks live in the same house for most of their childhood, David and I did not have that luxury.
Our mom and dad were urban nomads. We roamed west Tarrant County, Texas like Bedouins in the Sahara. We pulled up stakes and moved every year or two. During the fourteen years David lived in Texas, we lived in Benbrook, Azle (twice), White Settlement (three times), Lake Worth and various locations in west Fort Worth.
It was hard to be bored around the Jackson home. If we were not packing and moving out, we were moving in and unpacking. Between moves, Dad did his best to keep things interesting by changing careers, changing interests and changing dreams like some people change shirts.
The result, in David’s case, was a lack of focus and a need for stimulation. This translated into any number of risky pursuits. David was a horseman, hunter, fighter and serious lady’s man by the time he was sixteen. If he was afraid of anything, he hid it well, and that lack of fear, and common sense, kept him in trouble most of his teenage years.
The beginning of the end for David was our parents’ split in 1964. David went with his father and his future stepmother. They moved to Indiana where David had been born and his father had family. David did not finish high school and settled for a GED. He enlisted in the Army to learn a skill or trade. A few months later he was in Germany, by April 1968 he was in Vietnam.
Vietnam seemed to be good for David in some ways. He learned that risk taking, and an adrenaline rush are not the only things there are in life. Being David, he had to learn those lessons the hard way. If his letters and messages can be believed, he volunteered for every dangerous assignment that came along, almost paying the ultimate price for his adventures on more than one occasion.
However, his last few messages seemed to show he was growing up. They stressed how he was looking forward to settling down and having a career when he got home.
In February 1969 David was rotated to a base camp that was nominally safer than his normal post. On the night of February 26, 1969, David was twenty-eight days from returning home. He was secure in his base camp. He was miles from the front lines, such as they were in Vietnam. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese the camp was a safe area.
David was a little brother, a loving son and a man whose full potential was never realized. May he and his comrades in arms continue to rest in peace.
© oneoldcop – 2021