Al Anbar Province, Iraq. September 27, 2006.
Then-2nd Lt. Walter Bryan Jackson and his unit were attempting to recover a disabled vehicle along the road in what was then the deadliest province in the country. Jackson was the Fire Support Officer for Company A, Task Force 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment. Formerly serving in Germany, he had met with his unit en route to Iraq in January of the same year.
As his unit worked on the disabled vehicle, they came under severe machine gun fire from insurgent forces. The firing was centered on the middle of the road, which lay between Jackson and the commander. The commander and first sergeant were hit almost immediately. Seeing this, Jackson quickly crossed the road to the first sergeant’s side and applied a pressure bandage to the wound. Within a minute of reaching the sergeant’s side, Jackson himself was hit in the thigh and hand. He slumped over, losing consciousness for about a minute.
When he came to, Jackson began laying down suppressive fire in the general direction of the enemy. He then continued to administer first aid on the sergeant. After a few minutes, Jackson tried to reload the magazine of his rifle; but due to his injuries he was losing strength and was unable to load the weapon. So he turned his attention back to first aid, trying his best to keep the sergeant’s bleeding from becoming worse.
Meanwhile a few soldiers ran across the road to bring the injured commander to one of the Bradleys. A sniper hit another one of the soldiers as he bent down to pick up the commander’s weapon. The soldiers returned to help Jackson carry the sergeant to the Bradley, unaware that Jackson himself was seriously wounded. Despite the severe pain, Jackson stood up and helped carry the sergeant to the Bradley. On the way, Jackson was hit again in the leg. He and his comrades climbed into the Bradley and were evacuated.
A medic immediately started working on the sergeant. Meanwhile, Jackson could no longer feel his leg. Unsure of what to do, he grabbed the sergeant’s hand in an attempt to comfort him, despite the severity of his wounds, which required immediate surgical care. It was not until his comrade was treated that Jackson was attended to. When he was visited later that day at the aid station by the Task Force commander, Lt. Col. Thomas C. Graves, Jackson’s first words were of concern for his fellow soldier. Jackson’s selfless actions were essential in saving the other soldier’s life.
Jackson spent a year recovering in Walter Reed Army Medical Center. During his recovery, he spent his time volunteering as an intern at the Office of the Judge Advocate General, and has more recently returned to duty in Korea. For his heroism and selfless courage, Jackson was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor. Upon being presented the award by Secretary of the Army Pete Geren, Jackson humbly said, “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.”
The valor, honor, and integrity shared among Jackson’s fellow West Point graduates and soldiers is emblematic of those serving in the United States Military Today. It is for this, and for his willingness to sacrifice for his friends, that the American Veterans Center presents Captain Walter Bryan Jackson with the 2008 Paul Ray Smith Award.