Rightly or wrongly, junior officers have to deal with two reputations when they enter the service – the first is that of the young, inexperienced college graduate who, although motivated, lacks the credibility to make the important decisions. The other is that of the combat leader getting dirty on the front lines and making split second decisions that impact the lives of those in his charge.
1st Lt W. Bryan Jackson is the latter.
In late 2006 Jackson and his unit were attempting to recover a disabled vehicle when they came under fire. His First Sergeant, 1st Sgt David Sapp, was hit twice – once in the leg and once in the head. “Lying on the ground, Sapp recalled, he began praying he wouldn’t get shot again. ‘I was completely helpless, and I wanted to see my wife and daughters again (Washington Post).'”
Then, 1st Lt Jackson appeared at his side and began returning fire. A round tore into his leg, knocking him unconscious. When he awoke, he began firing again, pausing periodically to administer first aid to his First Sergeant. When his own wound sapped his strength to a point where he could no longer pull back the loading chamber on his rifle, he stood up and helped carry Sapp to a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, being shot again on the way.
Once they were safe, Jackson refused first aid until Sapp could be treated. Sapp recovered, although he is now legally blind in one eye, and wants to continue serving in the Army. Jackson has been operated on more than a dozen times, he told the Washington Post, but has made a full recovery. He was awarded a Purple Heart and Distinguished Service Cross, at the time the seventh soldier since 1975 to receive the Army’s second highest award (Defenselink). (Two more have been awarded since (HomeOfHeroes.com).)
At his ceremony, 1st Lt Jackson certainly didn’t sound like an inexperienced junior officer when he echoed the same words that have been uttered by past heroes. He 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.”
1st Lt Jackson is our hero of the week.