VET, 118 -- BUMLEG, BLIND, BROKE:
MAN IN THE WORLD!!!
by Vanessa Cortez, staff writer.
[November 12, 2001]
broke, you wouldn't think America's oldest -- and forgotten! -- veteran
at age 118 would have much to celebrate this Veteran's Day -- but don't
tell that to "Stumpy Joe" Jackson, who insists: "I'm the luckiest man in
That's the startling claim
from the gutsy gramp now living on a mattress behind an abandoned gas station
in D.C.'s skid row!
"Stumpy Joe" Jackson wasn't
born with any silver spoon in his mouth!
Born in 1883 with a leg already
missing, his disappointed dad called him "Stumpy." His mom laughed
so hard, she insisted they make it official.
As "Stumpy Joe" explains
it: "The 'Joe' came later, sorta as a nickname."
But when his country called
for help, Stumpy Jackson didn't hide behind his handicap -- or his age!
Only 15 when the Spanish-American
War broke in 1898, Stumpy told the Army he was 18!
"Recruiting sergeant figured
me for 30, I looked so old. Those 16-hour workdays in the cotton
fields was the luckiest break I ever had!"
But instead of medals, Stumpy
only infuriated cold-hearted Army brass. "Hobbling up San Juan Hill,
my wooden leg fell off. None of them Army boys noticed it till then."
Embarrassed Army brass tried
to hide their oversight -- offering Stumpy a hero's discharge with lifetime
medical pay, plus pension. But Stumpy wouldn't hear of it!
"An honest day's pay, for an honest day's work -- that's my motto!" smiles
the gutsy vet.
Frustrated Army brass assigned
Stumpy to latrine duty for the rest of the war -- stationing him amid bivouacking
troops, waiting for them to finish their business on portable potties.
(Photo above). But the sassy senior had no complaints. "Ain't
no such thing as a small job -- that's my motto!" he grins.
While others whine about
bad breaks, the plucky crip put his newfound job skills to use after the
war -- cleaning latrines professionally! "When someone hands me a
lemon, I make lemonade!" grins the feisty eldster.
on to serve his country in World
Wars One and Two, and in Korea -- suffering a harrowing brush with death in 1918!
"I got as far as the trenches,
but my wooden leg got stuck in the mud and came off!" Refusing an
honorable discharge with lifetime medical pay and pension, Stumpy put his
latrine skills to use at a field hospital.
But while most doughboys
returned to a hero's welcome, Stumpy found only unemployment.
had destroyed his profession. But don't expect pity from the plucky
eldster. "I was too busy for pity!"
Stumpy had begun amassing
the most-celebrated bottle cap collection on Earth! "Losing my job
was the luckiest break I ever had! I had some Dr. Pepper caps most
folks never even seen!"
Tragically, days after his
collection was professionally appraised -- at $15,000! -- his collection
was stolen! But the feisty crip bore no grudge! -- He never even
reported it to the police! "Whoever robbed me was only hurting themselves.
Cheaters never prosper -- that's my motto!"
After his wife left him in
1923, Stumpy spent eight event-filled decades living out of boxes and boxcars.
But don't call him homeless! "I'm the richest man on Earth!
I have the sun in the morning and the moon at night!"
Stumpy also counts his wealth
in the love of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren --
none of whom he's ever seen. "It's okay if they can't always find
me. Or even if they don't want to. Just knowing they're out
there thinking of me is all the happiness I could ever want!"
cleaning latrines in
Okinawa and Korea, the gutsy vet was packed for Nam when his country called.
But by then, Stumpy was bat blind! While asking for directions to
the recruiting station, the plucky crip was beaten by angry peaceniks --
one of whom stole his coat!
"He was welcome to it!" grins
the brave blindster. "Anyone who'd steal a coat needs it more than
me -- that's my motto!"
In 1993, after cleaning latrines
in the Gulf, cold-hearted military brass finally recognized Stumpy's long
record of heroic service with a special $50,000 honorarium -- that he promptly
lost on a pyramid land deal! But don't expect whining from the feisty
crip. "Money can't buy happiness -- that's my motto!"
Seeing the forgotten war
hero down on his luck behind the abandoned gas station, the Weekly Universe
offered to raise money for him from our hugely vast family of readers --
but charity is not in his vocabulary!
The gutsy gramp grinned.
"Give it to someone who needs it!"
Copyright 2001 by WeeklyUniverse.com
|Vanessa Cortez is a Los Angeles based tabloid reporter who has investigated the occult underbelly of the entertainment industry. Read more of her journalism in Hollywood Witches.