Jackson, Joe; Military Hero and Native American son walks on

By Ted. S. Warren
White Swan, Washington (AP) May 2011

Lance Cpl. Joe Jackson was honored as a military hero and as a Native American son.

After taps and a Marine Corps rifle salute, the honor guard removed the four American flags from atop his silver casket, folded them and presented them to family members. The flags were replaced them with a brightly colored Native American blanket.

A simple bell was rung and the casket was lowered into the ground.

Yakama tribal members who were military veterans were asked to come forward to toss handfuls of dirt into the grave. Eventually, all members of Jackson’s family and other tribal members were called up to participate in the ceremony.

Native American songs were sung as Jackson’s casket was guarded by a Marine honor guard, as well as flag holders from tribal veteran groups and representatives of the Patriot Guard Riders and other motorcycle clubs.

About a thousand people – many in Native American ceremonial clothing – attended the funeral under a nearly cloudless blue sky. The service followed a two-mile-long procession from White Swan to the military section of the Tahoma Cemetery in Yakima.

Jackson, 22, grew up on the Yakama Reservation in central Washington and was a member of the Gila River Tribe, according to Yakama Chairman Harry Smiskin.

He was killed April 24 by an improvised bomb while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, of Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Both Jackson’s biological family and his foster family were present at the funeral.

The gym at White Swan High School was opened for an open casket viewing for Jackson’s uniformed body.

School Superintendent Rick Foss said the use of the gym for services made it easier for the mourners in the Yakama Nation town, about 30 miles southwest of Yakima.

Jackson’s mother, Lydia Soren of Yakima, told KAPP she was moved by the people who cried over her son’s body.

“And then seeing your babies cry, over your other baby, it’s just wrong,” she said.

She said she could feel her son’s presence.

“I think he’s looking over the people,” Soren said.

The high school gym also was also the site of a morning drum ceremony prior to the burial services at Tahoma Cemetery.

Flags at Washington state agency buildings were ordered lowered to half-staff in Jackson’s memory.

White Swan High School students who knew Jackson were among many that stopped by the gym to see the fallen Marine.

“It was cool to see him as an open casket, in uniform,” says Rizwan Rose, a friend of Jackson’s.

Others struggled as they passed by.

“Was very hard for me and my other family members,” says Alex Craig, another friend of Jackson’s.

The death of a Native son and well-known local Marine was another blow to an Eastern Washington tribal community still recovering from a February wildfire that destroyed 18 homes.

About 100 buildings were damaged and more than 75 people were left homeless on the Yakama Nation Tribal land after a chimney fire was spread across 230 acres in 70 mph winds.