Before he was Marine Lance Cpl. Timothy Matthew Jackson, Matt Jackson was a student at Corbin High School who enjoyed playing video games and paint ball with his friends.
That is how Corey Shelton, one of Jackson’s closest friends during middle and high school described the 22 year old Corbin High School alum who was killed Sept. 30 while serving with the U.S. Marines in Afghanistan.
Speaking at Jackson’s funeral Tuesday at The David L. Williams Agriculture and Exposition Center in Corbin, Shelton recalled how he and Jackson were part of a group of gamers, who enjoyed playing video games, particularly "Halo" late into the night.
Along with "Halo," Shelton said Jackson took a liking to "Guitar Hero," even though he wasn’t very good at it initially. Like with other things in his life, Shelton said Jackson changed that with dedication and practice.
"He borrowed my copy of Guitar Hero one weekend soon after it came out," Shelton recalled. "When we played a few days later, he looked like the guy from VanHalen."
Rev. Bobby Joe Eaton, who presided at Jackson’s funeral, said he has known Jackson since he was a child.
"Matt’s goal was to join the military," Eaton said.
"He was a hero," he said.
+Eaton said Jackson went through an ordeal to earn the title of U.S. Marine including 12 weeks of basic training, and a 54-hour trial known as "The Crucible."
However, looking at Jackson’s picture, Eaton could see Jackson was proud of what he had overcome to earn that title.
"He was given the right to be clothed in the dress blue uniform," Eaton said. "He was a, ‘Marine.’"
Following the ceremony, Jackson’s funeral procession went through Corbin before traveling out Ky. 770 and Ky. 312 to Keavy. Before going on to Wells Cemetery, the procession passed Keavy Elementary where the students lined the playground fence offering salutes and holding American flags.
At the cemetery, Marines fired a 21-gun salute while "Taps" was played. The flag that had covered Jackson’s coffin was folded and presented to his father, Tim. Another flag was given to his wife.
Along with the flag, Tim Jackson received his son’s Purple Heart medal which was for the injuries from an improvised explosive device that ultimately proved fatal for the younger Jackson.
Jackson’s mother, Jody Tonkin, said his four-year enlistment in the Marines was scheduled to end in July.
At the funeral and again at the cemetery, Tonkin broke down in tears. She had previously described Jackson as a good-natured person, who got along with everyone.
"He was as close to a perfect child as you could get," Tonkin said.