LATHROP – It’s just about the most heart-breaking story imaginable: On one side of the door, a U.S. Army chaplain, with a message so important, he’s delivering it at 10 o’clock at night. On the other side of the door, Kristen Jackson, eight months pregnant with her second child, sits on the couch watching basketball, not knowing her life will soon be turned upside down.
Sgt. Issac Jackson, a 27-year-old from Lathrop and member of First Baptist Church, was killed Oct. 27, 2009 when an improvised explosive device (IED) hit his Stryker, an armored fighting vehicle and personnel carrier. He left behind a wife, a 2-year-old son, and a daughter who wasn’t born until six weeks after his death. Again, it’s hard to imagine anything worse.
And yet to talk to Kristen Jackson, you don’t hear the crushed spirit of a war widow, or of a young mother who was never able to snap a single photo of her daughter and the proud papa. To talk with her is to hear the joy of one who knows Christ, and knows that her husband is not in the ground under a grave marker, but in Heaven praising his Savior.
She was at home with her mother-in-law watching the Celtics, her favorite basketball team, when they heard the knock at the door. Before Issac’s mother answered the door, Kristen immediately knew what was coming.
“She let out this sound,” Kristen said. “It wasn’t a scream, and it wasn’t a gasp. I looked over and saw the chaplain, another solider and my parents. They don’t come to your house unless something has happened.”
She had spoken with Issac via phone less than 24 hours earlier, even as he was leaving on that day’s mission.
“I feel like it was God’s way of letting us say ‘goodbye,’ even though we didn’t know that’s what it was,” Kristen said.
Just a few hours after that knock at the door, she and the family were on a flight to Dover Air Force base where Issacand 20 other servicemen and women were returned to U.S. soil. Six of them had been in the Stryker vehicle Issac commanded.
Kristen said it was all a blur. She and Issac had never talked about funeral plans or what do if he was killed in action. To do so would have made it too real.
In the following days, family members were concerned about Kristen, their son, Enoch, and perhaps most of all the Jacksons’ unborn daughter, Eden Marie.
“I was worried about her too, but God calmed me,” she said. “I joke that it was like God slipped me a valium. Physically, everything was fine and I know it was because of God. I tell everybody I don’t know how other people cope with any of this without knowing Christ,” Kristen said. “It’s hard enough knowing where Issac is now, and knowing that this was God’s purpose and plan, even if I can’t understand it. I can’t even fathom going through this without knowing he’s in Heaven with his Lord.”
Kristen said she never was angry with God, an indulgence no human would begrudge her.
“I hurt more for my children than myself,” she said. “Issac never got to meet Eden. That just kills me. I don’t have one picture of them together. At least with Enoch I have a ton of pictures and video of them together I can show him later of his dad. That’s the hardest part of it all.”
The Jacksons’ church family also ministered in the days after as the news spread through the tiny community.
“It was so overwhelming,” she said. “People were bringing food, even shampoo for us and all our Army friends who flew in. It helps knowing you’re loved.”
It also helps knowing that even in the mountains of Afghanistan, Issac was sharing his faith with his brothers in arms.
“He was very blunt about his faith and not shy about it,” Kristen said. “It didn’t matter who you were, he would tell you that God had a plan for you.”
BRIAN KOONCE / staff writer