On this Memorial Day, WKAR is remembering all American veterans who've given their lives in the service of our country. Today, we're proud to honor a U.S. Air Force officer from Lansing.
Flando Jackson grew up in a tough neighborhood in Lansing off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. And like that street’s namesake, he learned the word “respect” at an early age.
His mother Mae recalls an incident many years ago on the school bus. Another boy had hit Flando, and Flando hit back. He apologized for the encounter, but warned the boy never to hit him again.
But that wasn’t the end of it. A teacher ordered young Flando to apologize to everyone on that bus. Flando stood his ground.
“And he told the teacher, the principal, me and the driver, ‘I did not hit them so I’m not apologizing,’” says Mae Jackson. “And the little fella made up his mind and they looked at me and I said, ‘No, once he makes up his mind, this is it.’ And he’s been that way ever since.”
As a boy, Flando loved airplanes and told his mother he wanted to fly. He joined the Air Force with dreams of becoming a pilot. When he didn’t make the cut, his mother was there with just the right words.
“So, he tried and they said they see something else in him,” she says. “And I said well, honey, evidently that might see a little bit more than you know.”
Maybe it was the needs of the service. Or maybe it was all the times when Flando was forced to stand up for himself. Whatever it was, Flando Jackson became a military equal opportunity officer. The values of diversity and respect he tried to live became the tent poles of his livelihood.
Flando found he liked settling problems, and he had a knack for leading training sessions.
“Flando made it come alive,” says Col. Jeremy Horn, the former commanding officer of the 194th. “And so, when you came out of that room, it was almost the fervent of a big tent revival; that he really made you believe that we could make a difference.”
In July 2016, Lieutenant Colonel Flando Jackson deployed to Qatar, a tiny peninsular nation on the Persian Gulf. There he served as his unit’s deputy chief of personnel. The compliments from the airmen he’d helped starting flowing back to his superiors almost immediately. The colonel was held in high esteem in Qatar.
Then one day in August, Flando called his mother for a serious talk. Mae Jackson remembers his tone of voice.
“He was having a bad, bad day,” Jackson says. “And we were talking, and he asked me, ‘Mama, why?’ I said, ‘Son, I can’t tell you. When God calls you, then you can ask Him these questions.’”
Flando Jackson answered his call that night.
He died of a heart attack in his room. He was 45 years old.
Mae Jackson taught her son the meaning of respect, and Flando Jackson taught it to others.
It came back to him, in life and in death.
“All the people that have come forth that I have met that knew him have had nothing but good things to say about him,” Jackson says through tears and a smile.
“It makes me very proud. Very proud.”