BJ Jackson

BJ Jackson

BJ Jackson

Wounded Army veteran of Iraq, Specialist BJ Jackson, Lincoln High graduate, was featured in a news story this week on Channel 8, local Des Moines station KCCI. You can read the story and watch the video on KCCI’s website by clicking on this link:  “Wounded Veteran To Raise Funds For Other Vets: Jackson Will Bike For 16 Days

DES MOINES, Iowa — It’s been a while since Iraq War veteran B.J. Jackson, of Des Moines, has been on a bicycle. Jackson is preparing to use pedal power to raise money for other wounded veterans. Jackson said it’s been more than 10 years since he rode a bike. He lost his lower legs to a landmine in Iraq. “Before, I had my ankles, so it was easier to rotate,” he said. “Now with my ankles being stationary, I have to use more of my heel to stay on the pedal.” He is taking pledges during part of his bike ride from Seattle to San Diego. “Coming up hills is a little harder than I thought,” he said. The fundraiser is a benefit for other wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans through Operation American Spirit. The 16-day ride to San Diego starts in Seattle on Sept. 22.

Robert “B.J.” Jackson was born on the south side of Des Moines in 1981, enlisted in the Iowa National Guard in October 1999, did Basic Training at Fort Benning, GA and Advanced Training at Fort Lee, VA. He deployed to Iraq in April 2003 with the 186th MP (Military Police) Company, as an MP. On August 7, 2003, his first day off in over a month, BJ was travelling in Baghdad in a Humvee that was ambushed by insurgents.

BJ says, “I was told a phosphorous land mine went off underneath the vehicle, an RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] hit the side of the vehicle, and there were guys in three buildings on each side firing AKs. I lost both my legs below the knee, and 60 percent body burn on my hand, arm, and my head and lower back, and lost my legs due to the burns.”

My legs were trapped in the vehicle, and they had an ambush for, I believe, about a four-and-a-half hour firefight during the time. And it took them about a half-hour to get me out of the burning vehicle.”

We had a raffle at the last reunion that raised about three hundred bucks for BJ. It’s good to see him up and on the move.

Classmate Deb Birdsall Williams spotted the story and the follow-on news that the ride injured him enough to require treatment and a new prosthetic leg. BJ has been doing a lot of work to help his fellow wounded warriors when he’s not studying for a degree in business. He jokes that he’ll probably never have a career in roofing again.  Even though his vocal cords were injured in the attack and he has trouble speaking, he does a lot of speeches to recovering troops.  He wears a hat to cover burns on his head.  He snow skis.

BJ lives with his wife Abby in Des Moines.   BJ & Abby had some problems with people gawking and whatnot at first.  He was denied entrance to the Crush nightclub in Clive because he was wearing tennis shoes, the only kind of shoes that will fit on his prosthetic legs.  It was BJ’s first night out on the town after he learned to walk again. If you’re wondering what kind of treasonous weenie hammerhead would bar a seriously wounded vet from entering his establishment, you might ask Tom Baldwin, owner of Crush.  You might enquire where he keeps his head.  I think I know.

Aside from the slings and arrows of the occassionally outrageous world, Abby brags that BJ’s injury has improved their relationship rather than diminished it, “My husband and my sex life is great.”  They have five kids.  I like to think the Class of 73 helped that first kid into this world with some cash to buy BJ & Abby a weekend in a nice hotel in Des Moines.  Maybe some champagne from room service, too, along with a Barry White album. 

Abby & BJ Jackson Speak on Iraq vets and sexual intimacy in Washington, DC;  May 21, 2008

Abby & BJ Jackson Speak on Iraq vets and sexual intimacy in Washington, DC; May 21, 2008

I hereby award BJ Jackson the Lincoln High Timex/Energizer Bunny Award for taking a licking but keeping on ticking and ticking and ticking.  We Lincoln High alumni salute you and your achievements!

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