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Remembering an unsung hero on Memorial Day

His fight for his country was not just abroad, but it continued on Connecticut shores when he returned.

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — At Hillside Cemetery, the family and friends of Private First Class James Jackson took Memorial Day to pay homage and remember a man who fought for freedom abroad when he didn't even have it at home. 

"As Black veterans, we always fought a tail of two wars. We bought one abroad and one upon returning home," explained veteran Randy Watson, founder of Veterans for Black Lives Matter

PFC Jackson, a native of East Hartford who graduated from East Hartford High school in 1955, went on to serve with the U.S Army during the Cold War.

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"He was a man of valor; he was a man of great character," proclaimed his niece, Bridgitte Prince. " He would give you the shirt off his back; he was loved."

His fight for his country was not just abroad, but it continued on Connecticut shores when he returned. Prince,  A veteran herself and advocate, says Jackson experienced racism and discrimination, which eventually led to him getting evicted from his home. However, despite that, she said he was resilient.  

"He fought for equal rights. Uncle James fought for equal employment," said Prince. "Uncle James fought for a right to live in equal low-income housing. Uncle James fought for peace."

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Prince said he laid down the foundation for her and his daughter, who both went on to serve in the military, and today, they're still fighting and advocating on his behalf for unsung heroes everywhere. 

"We want to get veterans housing definitely," passionately explained Prince. "We want veterans, black veterans to be offered more employment, and we want veterans who complain about racism and discrimination to be honored and not be pushed aside."

While PFC Jackson passed just after his 80th birthday, his family and friends said his legacy is a reminder that Memorial Day honors veterans of all wars, from those who died in combat to those who fought not to be forgotten. 

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"We need to do our history, we need to open up our books, and we need to honor everybody; we can't just honor one set class," said Watson. 

Prince posted more of her uncle's story and journey of his return home here

"Veterans are the ties that bind Americans. The one thing that all Americans have in common is that we all know a veteran no matter what your background or color is, and we all deserve respect," said Prince.

Raquel Harrington is the race and culture reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at rharrington@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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