Posted: 1:02 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013
Hometown Hero: Alpharetta 9-year-old greets, honors troops
By Bill Hendrick
Vietnam veterans Billy Darby of Cumming recalls being welcomed home with a cold shoulder. That’s why he considers the warm smile and a firm if tiny handshake that pint-sized Alpharetta fourth grader Cody Jackson gives to troops home from Afghanistan a special gift.
Cody goes to Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport every chance he gets, decked out in a camoflauge uniform of his own, dashing around from trooper to trooper, handing each candy or gum.
He also wears his hair in a “high and tight” fashion, so he looks like a miniature of the young men he runs up to and salutes.
Troops of all branches often kneel so they can make eye contact with Cody, smiling and making small talk.
“Thank you for protecting us,” Cody says, saluting and schmoozing. The troops appear surprised but pleased by Cody’s respectful demeanor.
To many, he’s like the little brother or maybe the son they left behind.
Cody, who is 9, was honored recently for his volunteer work by the Cumming chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America. He was made an honorary member of Chapter 1030 and given a VVA cap by Darby, who recalls being harassed in the Atlanta airport on his return from Vietnam in the ‘70s.
In addition to greeting troops as often as he can get his parents, Ken and Kelly Jackson, to take him to the airport, the youngster has his own website, www.1boyuso.com, where he sells T-shirts and other donated items to raise money for packages of goodies to send to Afghanistan.
Cody’s dad says his son has sold more than 2,000 copies of his two books, “Pint-Sized Patriots, Standing Tall” and “Pint-Sized Patriots, Coloring and Activity Book.” The books can be purchased on the website by credit card or PayPal and all proceeds go to stuffing gift parcels for troops.
So why does Cody do it?
“Because they are risking their lives to protect us and it is the right thing to do,” he says.
The youngster says he’s been at his “job” since his parents told him about the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Darby says the VVA decided to honor Cody “because he does all this incredible stuff for our troops. These guys coming back are not expecting a little guy to be greeting them, to honor them.”
Cody was at a Memorial Day ceremony in Cumming, Darby says, “putting flags down to honor those who served. Every time a name was called, he’d salute.”
Cody’s mom says the cost of candy, gas and airport parking “is a small price to pay for all the sacrifices our troops willingly go through for us.”
Jackson, an energy analyst, says his son has “personally thanked over 12,000 troops and veterans” and sent more than 1,800 pounds of packages overseas.”
The “stuff” for the boxes is $80 – $120 and shipping is $40 – $50, he says, so each box is around $120-$170.
Donations to cover costs can be made via Cody’s website or his Facebook page, One Boy USO. He also solicits addresses of troops.
“All proceeds go toward his packages,” Ken Jackson says.
Cody uses his allowance to pay for candy he hands out.
His smiles, says Darby, are free.