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Mission's end


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POSTED: Tuesday, June 09, 2009
                       
This story has been corrected.  See below.

It has been seven years since Army Green Beret Sgt. 1st Class Mark Wayne Jackson died during a Special Operations mission in the Philippines, and for his family the pain has never gone away.

“;It's still hard,”; said Bill Jackson as he wiped away tears at a ceremony last week dedicating a conference room at Camp Smith's Special Operations Command Pacific in honor of his son, the only American soldier to die as a result of terrorist action in the Philippines.

The younger Jackson commanded 12 soldiers of Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, of the 1st Special Forces Group from Fort Lewis, Wash., when he was killed by a terrorist in the southern island of Mindanao.

On Oct. 2, 2002, he and five Filipino soldiers were killed when a suicide bomber riding a motorcycle set off a nail-laden, homemade bomb at an open-air restaurant outside the gate of Camp Enrile Malagutay in Zamboanga. Abu Sayyaf—a Filipino jihadist group linked to al-Qaida and founded in the late 1980s by the brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden—claimed responsibility for the blast.

Twenty other people were injured, including a Special Forces captain.

Jackson, 40, had been with the group since 1999. He was part of a 260-soldier U.S. force sent to train Filipino soldiers in anti-terrorism tactics and undertake humanitarian projects.

Members of his family—his father, mother Janice, brother Richard, sister Kimberly Reeves and grandmother Evelyn Tompa—attended the ceremony and the unveiling of a memorial wall in the basement conference room dedicated to the Special Forces soldier. The crest of Jackson's 1st Special Forces Group decorates one wall of the room.

Jackson's mother cried as “;Amazing Grace”; was played on bagpipes, accompanying a slide show chronicling the life of the soldier from Saginaw, Mich.

William Jackson said his son never told him “;what he really did,”; adding, “;He didn't want to worry us.”;

Jackson has his own suspicions.

“;I think it had something to do with the kidnappings,”; said the elder Jackson, referring to the abduction of Kansas missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham and 19 others in May 2001 by Abu Sayyaf. Gracia Burnham was wounded and her husband killed in a botched rescue by Philippine soldiers in 2002 after they were held for ransom for more than a year.

More than 1,000 soldiers, including units from Fort Lewis, where sent to the Philippines from February to July to train Filipino troops to curb the kidnapping activities of Abu Sayyaf.

Maj. Gen. Salvatore Cambria, who leaves as commander of Special Operations Command Pacific on Friday, said the room was named after Mark Wayne Jackson because “;he was a quiet professional”; and a “;Special Forces warrior who embodied all of those qualities that set Special Operations members apart from the rest.”;

Cambria added the conference room, which can be connected to other services by secure closed-circuit satellite links, “;serves as a center for the Special Operations plans and operations that support the Pacific Command's objectives of deterring aggression, advancing security cooperation and responding to crises throughout the vast Asian-Pacific region.”;

Although the military declined to disclose the number of special warfare troops assigned to the command, past media reports have estimated as many as 48,000 Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces, Air Force and Marine Corps commandos. Cambria's next assignment will be U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., as deputy director of the Center for Special Operations.

Mark Wayne Jackson had been in the Army for 19 years, nine in Special Forces. He spoke Farsi (Persian) and Arabic and had deployed to Kuwait, Jordan, Bahrain, Haiti and numerous Southeast Asian countries.

William Jackson said his son had initially enlisted in the Army Reserve in 1983 and switched later to the active Army, volunteering to be a paratrooper, then an Army Ranger and finally, in 1993, the Green Berets.

“;Whatever he did, he wanted to be the best,”; his father said.

Before he went to the Philippines in 2002, his brother begged him not to because he knew it was a dangerous mission.

“;Mark told us that it was just something he had to do. You just got to do what you have to do. I am so pleased and proud of him.”;

 

               

     

 

CORRECTION

       

       

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

        » A conference room at Camp Smith was named in honor of Green Beret Mark Wayne Jackson. Originally, the subheadline on this article gave the wrong last name.