DALLAS — One evening last month, mourners came looking for closure after losing an American soldier.
Rolland Jackson’s dress military jacket and retirement flag were proudly displayed at his visitation, along with a smiling picture of Jackson in uniform.
“He loved to wear the uniform,” said Sgt. Russell Hurd, one of Jackson’s closest friends.
Jackson, 52, was a brave man who served in both Gulf War campaigns. He fixed Humvees and aircraft but he was more than a mechanic. He was a leader.
He was also a car man, specifically fast cars.
“If you started talking to him about cars, he'd never stop,” said retired Army Sgt. Ray Martinez, another of his friends.
Jackson served 22 years in the military before retiring, but he didn't die on the battlefield. He died in Dallas.
He'd just gotten a new Corvette and was driving it on Aug. 3 when he pulled into Jeremy's store on East Illinois Avenue in Oak Cliff. Jackson was leaving the store when police say a stranger confronted Jackson wanting money.
In a matter of seconds, Jackson lay dying on the ground. He had been shot several times. Before he left, police say the accused killer, Lance Williams, stole his wallet and keys. He would later turn himself in at police headquarters.
Williams remains in the Dallas County jail.
“He took a veteran's life -- somebody who fought for this country for freedom the people they have now,” said retired Army Sgt. Carlos San Martin. “To be treated and paid back in this manner [is] unacceptable.”
To date, the murder counts stands at 119 people. The latest occurred Wednesday in Oak Cliff. A woman was found stabbed to death beside her house in Oak Cliff. Police not have not released her name or any information to the public. Over the weekend, Alvin Fox, 88, died days after being beaten and robbed inside a Fiesta supermarket on Lancaster Road.
Jeff Jackson last saw his brother a few days before he died. He took him for a spin in the new red Corvette.
“I really wanted to ask him why the ‘vette and not an RV?'" Jeff Jackson chuckled. “But that’s Rolland. Rolland was always into cars.”
He thinks the car might have been the reason that the accused killer targeted his brother.
“I miss Rolland a lot,” he said lowering his voice. “I miss Rolland a lot.”
The Jackson brothers grew up in Oak Cliff. Their dad owned a janitorial company.
“We were a hardworking family,” Jeff Jackson said.
His brother’s love affair with cars began as a teen. He was 15 when he bought his first car. He didn’t have a driver’s license.
“Dad was kind of upset,” Jeff Jackson said with a deep laugh.
The Jackson brothers graduated from Carter High School. They enlisted together almost 30 years ago. The brothers were stationed at Fort Hood.
“I was 18; Rolland was 21,” he said.
The military shaped Rolland Jackson into the man he would become, his brother said.
Jeff Jackson served for about seven years and became a cop, but his brother would make it a career. Rolland Jackson went on to serve full time with the Army National Guard.
After the 9-11 attacks, Jackson's unit was deployed to Love Field as the nation ramped up airport security.
“That’s where he met his beautiful wife,” Martinez says.
He and Kathy married 14 years ago. She had teenage son.
“Some stepsons and stepfathers don't get along," his brother said. "To me, by even looking at these pictures, they really loved each other."
Jackson’s stepson, Seneca Durham, prepared the obituary for the man he calls his dad. He made the funeral arrangements so his grieving mother wouldn’t have to do it.
“He was the dad that I never had,” said Durham, 34. “Last week, I pulled his obituary out and just looked at it and tears just started coming out of my eyes because I was just like, 'Why? Why my dad?'"
Jackson medically retired from the military a few years ago after he was seriously injured in a bad fall. He’d served his country for 22 years.
His dad’s retirement flag gives Durham peace. It now sits on the fireplace in his home.
“I remember my dad by it so it’s very important,” Durham said.
At the visitation, Jackson’s guest book filled with the names of those who came to honor his life.
“I can’t even look over there,” Hurd said, averting his eyes from Jackson’s casket. “I would have taken a bullet for him.”
“It’s a family,” said Martinez, describing himself as one of Jackson’s “battle buddies.” “It’s hard to let go”
Rolland Jackson, an American hero, will no doubt live on in the hearts of those who knew and loved him.
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