FORT DIX, N.J. -- When DeSean Jackson was drafted by the Eagles he knew very little about Philadelphia, except perhaps that his cousin lived there.
Jackson said he didn’t know his father’s first cousin, Jimmy Jackson, very well until he arrived in 2008. But he was family and the receiver was far from home and they started spending a significant amount of time together.
His cousin, Jackson said, “Showed me the ropes” of living in Philly. Jackson said he learned much more from Jimmy Jackson, 64, who served in the Vietnam War.
“The more I hung around him and spent time with him I could tell how fighting in Vietnam affected his life after the war – injuries, mentally,” Jackson said Tuesday. “I really couldn’t imagine what he went through and what he saw on an everyday basis when he was in the war.”
Jimmy Jackson’s plight became the inspiration for the Eagles receiver getting involved with the “Wounded Warrior Project.” DeSean Jackson donated $50,000 to the organization that provides aid to servicemen and women who sustained injuries and illnesses on or after Sept. 11, 2001.
“This is our mission – to honor and empower,” said Owen O’Shea of Wounded Warrior. “With this money we’re fueling 18 different programs – not only focusing on the warrior but on their family, as well.”
O’Shea said that Jackson approached Wounded Warrior about doing something to honor the men and women of the military, who like his cousin, are still afflicted.
“The money being raised today and the awareness tell everyone that we are still at war,” O’Shea said. “We still have men and women returning at a scary number not only with physical injuries but non-physical injuries, as well.”
Jackson, 25, presented the check on Tuesday at the Soldier Family Assist Center at the Fort Dix Joint Base. He showed up and signed autographs for soldiers and alumni of Wounded Warrior. Jackson also played a card game, shot pool and posed for pictures.
He then went outside and tossed the football around.
Jackson’s mother, Gayle, said that his cousin would have attended the event, but he had doctors’ appointments he could not miss. Jimmy Jackson was a Sergeant E5 in the Army and earned two purple hearts and two bronze stars.
Despite his post-war condition, he became a surrogate to DeSean Jackson after his father, Bill, died from pancreatic cancer in April, 2009.
“Once my dad passed away he stepped up and was there for me a lot,” Jackson said.