Stafford Jackson’s 22 years of service in the United States Army garnered him many medals and awards, the highest of which being The Silver Star for his actions in the Vietnam War.
Yet the St. Charles Parish native, undoubtedly a hero, is humble in talk surrounding his service and recognitions.
“It feels good to be appreciated … it’s much better to be called a hero now,” he said. “The sentiment immediately after that war was not always one of appreciation, so it is much better to be called a hero than it was to be called something else.”
Jackson was born on June 11, 1940. He grew up in Norco, a town he said that greatly shaped him.
“Norco was really like one big village … you didn’t just grow up and learn from your immediate family, you were nurtured and supported by everybody,” he said. “A lot of different people taught all of us how to grow and become the best version of ourselves.”
Jackson joined the infantry as a 20-year-old unmarried man. He said a lack of local jobs at the time had him looking to do something different with his life.
He would go on to served two combat tours in Vietnam, participating in the Vietnam Counter Offensive Phase III and IV.
“The biggest lesson I learned from my time in Vietnam was that in order to achieve something greater than ourselves we really had to learn to get along with people,” he said. “I would not have succeeded if I didn’t get along with folks that were different from me. I honestly enjoyed serving because I was able to be around so many different people. That helped make a tough situation much easier.”
Jackson also served in two tours in Germany, and as a Platoon Sergeant, Platoon Leader and First Sergeant in the 1st Battalion, 11th Infantry at Fort Carson.
In his final assignment, he served with the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry as the Battalion S2 Operations Sergeant. Additionally, he served as the Acting Headquarters First Sergeant and accomplished the task of planning and executing skills testing for the entire battalion.
Jackson, now 80 years old, is somewhat sheepish when recounting the details of February 12, 1968 – the day that earned him The Silver Star.
At the time he served as squad leader with Company B, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division. Jackson’s company was on a search and destroy mission near Dak To.
“Oh yes,” he said laughing when asked about the day. “They opened fire on us. I was concerned, but not really scared. I had the nerves at that time … you had to be brave.”
Jackson’s Silver Star paperwork details his courageous actions that day.
“For gallantry in action while engaged in military operations against an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam … as the company was making its way to the top of a hill, it was brought under heavy enemy automatic weapons, mortar and rocket fire,” the paper states. “Given the mission of destroying an enemy machine gun bunker, Sgt. Jackson directed his squad’s fire upon it as he advanced toward the insurgents. During his movement he came under intense enemy automatic weapons fire and grenades, but continued on. Reaching the bunker, Sgt. Jackson grabbed the machne gun, dislodged it from its position and tossed in grenades, silencing it.”
Jackson’s actions resulted in the eliminating of the entire enemy machine gun crew and the capture of a .31 caliber machine gun.
“Staff Sgt. Jackson’s personal bravery, professional skill and exemplary devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service,” the award concludes.
Jackson said that day was memorable, but that he did not find his actions on it totally remarkable.
“We were trained like that,” he said. “At the end of the day I was just so glad I was still alive.”
Jackson married his wife Robbie in 1971 and had two daughters, Terri Thomas and Kimberly Jackson. Now a Colorado resident, he said the best choice he ever made was going into the military.
“My time in active combat taught me that having a strong military is a good thing,” Jackson said. “It also made me more firmly believe that everyone should work to be of service to our country in any way they can.”