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Why Memorial Day matters so much to this Bucs player

Vincent Jackson’s foundation, off-the-field focus is to help military families

Much like the military lifestyle, the life of a professional football player comes with a few rules and guidelines. Between practices, games, diet, physical training and studying playbooks, athletes don’t have time to worry about defeat. It’s not in their DNA. It’s not in their makeup.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Vincent Jackson knows a little bit about that as a military brat, the son of two military parents. His father served in the Army for 21 years. His parents met in boot camp.

So Memorial Day means a lot to him. It’s a day to reflect on those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

Jackson will spend his Memorial Day remembering our fallen military personnel. But he’s also chosen to inspire and uplift active-duty military families.

The wide receiver’s organization, the Jackson in Action 83 Foundation, provides educational, emotional and physical help to support the children of military families. Formed in November 2012, it is based in Tampa, Florida.

“For me [Memorial Day] is also about the fact that we get to step back, take a minute and recognize how lucky and fortunate we are because of so many selfless, brave and courageous men and women,” Jackson said.

As a child, his father was deployed to Germany and Panama, leaving him and his mom behind. He said he feels that one of the real threats to a close bond between military parents and their children is the parents’ deployment away from home.

Spouses and children are often left to cope with the stress that comes with deployment. Their lives are profoundly changed by war. Most families will be able to overcome these adversities through the support of family, friends and community.

As part of the community, Jackson has stepped in.

“I immediately found out how strong a military community Tampa is and I thought ‘let me step up to help,’ ” Jackson told The Undefeated.

Jackson desires to put time into his organization that can help military parents maintain close relationships with their kids, no matter the physical distance that may separate them.

“We don’t want to forget about the families and we want to make sure they understand that we appreciate their support and sacrifice as well,” Jackson said.

The Jackson in Action 83 Foundation’s standard is to be as “resolute in their mission to help military families as those families’ soldiers are to protect our freedoms.”

Jackson and his wife Lindsey have five different programs in the organization: Salute to Reading Program, Youth in Action Camp, Military Moms Baby Shower, Military Family Home Makeover and Salute to Scholars. They also developed three children’s books designed to help kids and their parents cope with the emotional issues of deployment called Danny Dogtags Children’s Books.

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“The military lifestyle is so transient,” Jackson said. “For me personally, it’s seeing the appreciation these families have. The smiles from the children and the hugs from the moms — the fact that they don’t take it for granted is very rewarding.”

Kelley Evans is a general editor at The Undefeated. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.