While serving in the Army, Edmond Jackson lived in Iraq for a year and found contentment being a part of a greater purpose.
He was away from his wife, his children and everything familiar to him, but he recalls knowing as he would watch the sun set and rise against the cityscape in Iraq, that he had joined the Army for one simple and unexpected reason — love of country.
At 28, Jackson didn’t have a military background and had never considered joining the military. He was a transplant from San Diego who moved to Kern County to attend California State University, Bakersfield and play basketball. He was charmed by the region’s small-town energy, and he got married, started a family and was working as a substitute teacher at schools in Bakersfield.
Everything was moving along for Jackson until 9/11.
“I wasn’t always patriotic,” Jackson, 47, said. “When I was younger, I didn’t think about things like that… But a month before 9/11 my wife and I were in New York for vacation and we took a helicopter ride through the city, and we flew above that skyline, above the Twin Towers. A month later I watched what happened to New York … it did something to me.”
He joined the military on his 28th birthday, began boot camp training in 2003 and then moved to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he went to tank school. He, his wife and two small children lived in Colorado until Jackson was deployed to Iraq where he lived for a year.
“I was nervous to go (to Iraq) but once I was there, it was exciting. But life also became very simple,” Jackson said. “You’re grateful for every little thing, for being back in your room, the food you eat, the people you are with, you just focus on watching the sky come up the next day and you live in the present.”
After serving four years in the Army, Jackson and his family moved back to Bakersfield in 2007 and he lived off savings, while his wife continued teaching. He took this time to consider his next career move.
He was interested in staying in the Army but didn’t want to uproot his family every time he had to move to a new assignment. He wanted to give them a permanent place to call home.
One afternoon his friend called him and told him Bakersfield Police Department’s Assistant Chief of Police Brian Lynn wanted to have lunch with him and he thought, “why not?”
“My family friend asked me if I had ever thought about becoming a police officer and I told him ‘Never!” Officer Jackson laughs at the memory.
That lunch happened 14 years ago. Senior Officer Jackson remembers enrolling in the police academy shortly thereafter and finding it more difficult than bootcamp. He got through the pushups, the early morning running, and found a comradeship with his fellow officers through the police department that reminded him of the military.
He has worked in different divisions at Bakersfield Police Department, starting out in the graveyard shift – a crash course in police work. Through the years he has combined his background in education with his work by becoming an instructor at the police academy while he continues to patrol the streets and getting to know the residents of Bakersfield.
“I try to tell my son and daughter that life isn’t about money,” he said. “It’s about getting up in the morning and being happy about what you do – that’s what’s important.
“That’s what being a police officer feels like for me,” Jackson said. “There isn’t a day that doesn’t pass here in Kern County where someone doesn’t want to shake my hand, wave at me or thank me. I know that’s not the case everywhere, but here in Bakersfield, we are supported