Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Army Staff Sgt. Paul R. Jackson

Remember Our Heroes

SSgt. Paul Jackson, 33, helicopter crash victim
By Tom Infield

Inquirer Staff Writer

Staff Sgt. Paul Robeson Jackson, 33, who grew up in Philadelphia and became a member of an elite Army special forces unit, was killed Wednesday during a helicopter training exercise in the mountains of Colorado.

The military identified Sgt. Jackson as one of four soldiers who died when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed while operating in the thin air at 14,000 feet near Mount Massive, Colorado's second-highest peak. Sgt. Jackson's family said he was the crew chief.

A veteran of nine deployments to Iraq and one to Afghanistan, Sgt. Jackson was a member of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, based at Fort Campbell, Ky., which was created in the 1980s after a failed mission to rescue American hostages in Iran.

"He was very proud of his training and being in that unit," said his godfather, Rudolph Tolbert.

A 1994 graduate of Walter B. Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences, he was known to his family as Robe.

He began studies at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, but soon discovered that outdoor adventure was more to his liking, Tolbert said. He joined a smoke jumpers team that put out forest fires in the northwestern United States.

In 1998, he joined the Army and made it into the special forces. After 9/11 and with the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, he found himself in what must have seemed like one combat operation after another. He also served with U.S. forces in South Korea.

Along with numerous other medals, he received three Air Medals for valor.

As much as he could, Tolbert said, Sgt. Jackson returned to Philadelphia to see his family. He was here in March after the death of his father, Melvin, and was home again in June to see his mother, Maisha Brenda Jackson.

Jackson's brother, Mpozi Tolbert, a photojournalist at the Indianapolis Star, died of a heart attack at his desk in 2006, Rudolph Tolbert said.

Besides his mother, Sgt. Jackson is survived by his daughter, Desiree, 8, who lives with her mother in New Jersey.

Funeral arrangements were pending.

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