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OLDEST U.S. VET, 118 -- BUMLEG, BLIND, BROKE:
I'M LUCKIEST MAN IN THE WORLD!!!

by Vanessa Cortez, staff writer.  [November 12, 2001]

 

[WeeklyUniverse.com]  Crippled, blind, 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 the world!"

Spanish American War's Oldest VeteranThat'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.

The courageous crip went 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. Indoor plumbing 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!"

After 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.

 

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