Oak Harbor grad awarded Distinguished Service Cross

An 2001 Oak Harbor High School graduated has been awarded for his bravery as a member of the U.S. Army fighting in Iraq.

First Lt. Bryan Jackson became the seventh soldier since the Vietnam War ended in 1975 to receive the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in action.

Secretary of the Army Pete Geren presented the award, which is second in precedence to only the Medal of Honor for valor in battle, at a ceremony held in the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes Friday afternoon.

A second lieutenant at the time of his heroic action on Sept. 27, 2006, Jackson was cited for selfless courage under extreme enemy fire while serving as a company fire support officer with company A, Task Force 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.

Jackson was engaged in combat operations with his unit against insurgents and while he attempted to recover a disabled vehicle, his unit came under heavy machine gun fire, which resulted in several soldiers being wounded. As he applied first aid to a severely wounded comrade, he too was shot in the thigh.

Lt. Jackson’s citation in part reads:

“Upon regaining consciousness after being shot, the second lieutenant alternated between returning fire and administering first aid to the soldier. Second Lt. Jackson was hit again with machine gun fire as he helped carry his wounded comrade to safety, but he never faltered in his aid. Although his own severe wounds required immediate evacuation and surgical care, 2nd Lt. Jackson refused medical assistance until his wounded comrade could be treated. Second Lt. Jackson’s selfless courage under extreme enemy fire was essential to saving another soldier’s life and is in keeping with the finest traditions of military service.”

Before the presentation, Lt. Col. Thomas C. Graves, former Task Force commander, recounted part of that September 2006 day when he arrived at the medical aid station to see his wounded soldiers and the first words to come from Jackson were of concern for the wounded captain he’d rescued.

“All the leadership schools, classes and years of experience never really prepare you for that moment in time when you are standing among heroes who have given their all, where their first concerns still remain with their fellow Soldiers,” he said. “It reinforces duty and commitment unlike any other experience.”

After Secretary Geren made the award presentation, Jackson spoke to the packed room, humbly thanking his family, his West Point classmates and the soldiers he’s served with in his short two-year career and saying simply,

“I believe I just had to do what I had to do in that situation… I think many soldiers would have done the same thing,” he said.

Jackson has been recovering from his wounds at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, having undergone more than a dozen surgeries. While recovering, he volunteered as an intern with the Judge Advocate General’s office. He is awaiting orders to take over a multiple launch rocket system platoon in Korea with the 2nd Infantry Division Fires Brigade.

Congressman Rick Larsen, who represents Oak Harbor, was on hand to applaud Jackson’s heroism.

“I thank First Lieutenant Jackson for his extraordinary service to his comrade and his country,” said Larsen. “Washington state and the nation will always remember his courage and his selfless heroism.

“When the Jackson family lived in Oak Harbor, Bryan’s father, CDR Walter Jackson, was a squadron commander at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. He has since been promoted to captain and is stationed in the Washington D.C., area.

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