Vincent Jackson is a self-described "military brat."
His father, Terence Jackson, spent 21 years in the Army, retiring in 1998 as a first sergeant. His mother, Sherry Jackson, was also in the Army and stationed in Germany where his parents met.
"I was born on Ft. Polk, in Louisiana," says Jackson, who, like other military children, moved from base to base to base, a journey that took him to Arizona, Texas, Colorado and as far as Germany.
So when Jackson, a wide receiver, came to Tampa last year to play for the Bucs, the two-time Pro Bowler says it only made sense to give something back in a community with such a strong military presence. That led to the Jackson In Action 83 Foundation, incorporated in November.
Its goal is to "help servicemen and servicewomen stay connected with their children during their deployments ... and raise community awareness of the relational issues existing between deployed service members and their children."
Moving around so much, Jackson says, "I know the life. I went to school on military bases. I am very familiar with the lifestyle."
Jackson says he "had it in the back of my mind for years" to start the charity, but wasn't until arriving in Tampa, as a free agent after years with the San Diego Chargers, that the idea coalesced.
"With MacDill Air Force Base here, and a huge military community, it was the right timing to allow me to do some stuff in my own back yard."
Since its inception, the foundation has purchased more than 250 Bucs' tickets "to allow military families to celebrate their reunion at Tampa Bay home games." Jackson has also spent time at Tinker Elementary School, on MacDill, to promote "the three legs of our mission - emotion, educational and physical." And a few weeks back, he ran a camp for children.
On Saturday, Jackson is holding his first autograph session for the charity. Hosted by Memorabilia Magic, which sells mainly athlete autographs on consignment for charity organizations, the fundraiser will feature Jackson autographic items people bring in. Each guest will also get a pre-autographed Jackson poster, according to John Osterweil, Memorabilia Magic owner and local military booster.
Entry fee is $25 and proceeds go to the Jackson In Action 83 Foundation.
Osterweil said he expects several hundred to show up at the store, 500 N. Willow St.
"Of all the athletes I have met, Vincent is one of the most gracious, considerate and nicest," says Osterweil. "He is a superstar on and off the field and makes all the right moves."
For more information about the foundation, go to jacksoninaction83.org. For more information about the event, call (813) 259-0052.
****Speaking of deployments, the Florida Army National Guard is making its 100th deployment since 9/11.
On Thursday, more than 50 soldiers from the Florida Army National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 111th Aviation Regiment based at Camp Blanding will ship out, bound eventually for Southwest Asia, according to Florida Army National Guard spokesman Ronnie Tittle.
The unit's first stop is Fort Hood, Texas, for additional training before heading out to provide airfield operations in a number of places, including Afghanistan.
Since 9/11, more than 17,000 members of Florida National Guard have deployed.
"This is not only a milestone for the Florida National Guard - it is a milestone for every Florida Guard member and everyone that supported our committed men and women over the past 11 years of deployments," said Adjutant General of Florida Maj. Gen. Emmett Titshaw Jr. in a statement. "At each of our 99 deployment ceremonies we have asked for the support and confidence of every family member, employer, friend and colleague in attendance. This time I want to thank all of Florida's citizens for the continuous, unwavering support to the men and women of the Florida National Guard.
"This historic 100th ceremony reflects Florida's patriotism, resiliency, and strong support of our citizen-soldiers and airmen," he added.
****Don't forget that the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games kick off in Tampa on Saturday, July 13.
The games, which run through the 18th, are co-presented by the Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital and the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America are the 2013 local co-hosts. For a detailed schedule of events, visit the national website at www.wheelchairgames.va.gov.
****Hazel Willis is the reason we in the news biz try, as best we can, to avoid absolutes.
On Independence Day, I had a story about the thoroughly delightful Florence Ellenberger, a 103-year-old widow of a WWI veteran who had just received VA benefits. At the end of the story, it was mentioned that the speed at which Ellenberger received her benefits - two days - is unique and that she is probably the only WWI veteran's widow left in the county.
Good thing the operative word was probably.
Friday morning, I spoke with Willis, another thoroughly delightful woman, who was calling to tell me that she lives in Plant City and that her first husband, Benjamin Thomas Tanner, was a private in the Army during the Great War.
Then again, with 2,000 surviving WWI spouses still living around the country, there may be others. If you are, or know any, give me a call.
****The Pentagon announced the deaths of three soldiers last week.
1st Sgt. Tracy L. Stapley, 44, of Clearfield, Utah, died July 3, at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, in a non-combat related incident. The incident is under investigation. He was assigned to the 308th Medical Logistics Company, Saint George, Utah.
Spc. Hilda I. Clayton, 22, of Augusta, Ga., died July 2, in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, of a non-combat related incident that occurred in Qaraghahi, Afghanistan. The incident is under investigation. She was assigned to the 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera), 21st Signal Brigade, Fort George G. Meade, Md.
Sgt. Justin R. Rogers, 25, of Barton, N.Y., died June 28, in Bagram, Afghanistan, from a non-combat related incident currently under investigation. He was assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.
There have now been 2,233 U.S. troop deaths in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the nation's longest war.