|Written by Mark Lineberger|
|Wednesday, 23 June 2010 08:00|
Wrapped in a colorful blanket draped around his shoulders, Jackson stood still as Tribal Elder Vincent Randall anointed him with the yellow pollen from a cattail Saturday, June 19.
It was a ritual Randall said was passed down throughout the tribe for generations. Pollen is a symbol of life, Randall said, and the ritual was a way to cleanse Jackson and other Native Americans who have gone to war.
Randall also spoke of the Bible, and said that while the Scriptures teach to anoint people with oil, pollen is the traditional medium for those who have called the Verde Valley home for centuries.
“It means life to us,” Randall said. “There were many things out there that are not of our Apache world. This cleanses them from the contamination.”
A prayer and a pair of songs in the language of the Apache completed the ritual, songs that spoke to the blessings brought with each new day. Jackson’s father, Lawrence Jackson Sr., finished the ceremony by offering a prayer in English, thanking God for returning his son.
Jackson, who grew up in Clarkdale as a member of the Yavapai-Apache Nation, got to come home for a brief while after a year serving as a military policeman with the U.S. Army in Iraq, a member of the 545th Military Police Company stationed in Fort Richardson, Alaska.
For Jackson, it was a journey from one desert to another, but this one proved far more welcoming.
“[Jackson] was deployed last May,” the father said. “They made sure he was there for every one of those 365 days. I counted every single one of those 365 days. It was difficult at the beginning; a lot of things happened there at once.”
But the father’s patience and prayers were rewarded Saturday, with a celebratory reunion in the presence of well-wishers and loved ones.
While Jackson was joined by his family and friends from the tribe at the community center on the reservation in Clarkdale, he was escorted there by his other brotherhood, the veterans of the armed forces who also have made their decision to serve our country a defining factor in their lives and a driving force to welcome their fellow veterans home with as much pomp and circumstance as they can muster.
Bikers from the local American Legion Riders gathered at Post 25 in Cottonwood to form an escort for Jackson as he made his way to the community center in Clarkdale. Jackson’s return was joined by an SUV sporting signs welcoming him as a “Hometown Hero” and a bevy of flags and banners.
American Legion Rider membership chairwoman Kitty McDowell said that while the Legion has welcomed back soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen for years, the group is hoping to do even more.
“We know there are people coming back all the time,” McDowell said. “We just need to know when and we can fire things up again. It’s a privilege for us.”
It’s especially poignant for some of the older members of the Legion who mount up for the welcome, said Bill “Popcorn” Carter, director of the group.
“We have a lot of Vietnam vets,” Popcorn said, himself included. “We didn’t get this kind of welcome when we came back, so we want to make sure that these guys do. It’s what we do.”
As for Jackson, he was impressed by the turnout.
“It’s bigger than I expected,” Jackson said.
After the celebration, Jackson will report back to Alaska to continue to serve.
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