Jim Jakub is one of nearly 2 million men drafted by the United States military to serve in the Vietnam War.
He attended basic training at Fort Polk in Louisiana shortly after his graduation from Schuyler Central High School in 1969. After that, he headed to Fort Bliss in Texas for advanced training on M42 Dusters and Quad 50 machine guns. Then he went to Air Defense NCO Candidate School and received his E-5 Sergeant stripes.
And then he volunteered to go to Vietnam.
“I wanted to help defend my country even though it was a very unpopular war,” he said.
Jakub lead his squad for a year and then served seven years in the Army Reserve. More than 50 years later, Jakub has no regrets about his nine-year military career.
“I’m very proud of my service,” he said. “I would do it again.”
Back in Nebraska, Jakub settled in Columbus with his wife, Elaine, and began his career and his family. He worked for a few different employers over the years and then someone suggested he apply at Loup Power District.
He got the job and began his career as a Plant Operator at the Columbus Powerhouse.
“It was a new challenge,” Jakub said. “And I like challenges.”
Jakub ended up working at Loup for 20 years, retiring in 2014. It was during that time, that he learned about Disabled American Veterans (DAV) group while attending a Veterans Day program. Jakub — a member of the VFW and American Legion — wanted to know more about the group.
The more he learned, the more he realized he was ready for a new challenge: serving veterans with the DAV.
The DAV’s main objective is working with veterans and their spouses and families to get the benefits they have earned through their service.
Jakub said the paperwork is complicated. Veterans need help filling it out, providing the proper documentation, and submitting their claims.
The DAV also offers transportation services to veterans in certain areas and has a disaster relief program.
“DAV is there to assist veterans in many ways,” he said.
Jakub added that some veterans, such as those who served in the National Guard and Reserve, feel they don’t deserve benefits, especially if they haven’t gone oversees or been in combat situations. Jakub assures they them are indeed veterans and need to have a DAV service officer help them with their claims.
“I tell them, ‘If you raised your right hand and swore allegiance to this country, you signed a blank check and now we need to take care of you,’” he said.
Jakub signed that blank check. But he’s not the only one in his family to do so.
He had two brothers who also served in the Vietnam War. One was in Vietnam at the same time serving with the Army. The other was in Thailand with the Air Force. Jakub acknowledges that having three children serving overseas at the same time had to be difficult for his mother.
“I think that’s why my mom colored her hair,” he joked.
Jakub’s father, Edward, served in World War II on the island of Saipan. His son, Jamie, is an Air Force Officer and the Adjutant for the Department of Nebraska DAV.
And so, serving veterans is near and dear to Jakub who served as the Commander of the DAV Chapter #20 for six years. He also served as Commander of the Department of Nebraska DAV for three years.
While he still works with the group and advocates for veterans, health concerns forced him to take a “few steps back.”
In September 2020, Jakub and his son, Jamie, were at the airport in Omaha preparing for a trip to pick up two new DAV vehicles for Nebraska. He was feeling a little run down. And then he collapsed.
He stayed in the hospital for a few days, got some medication, and headed home. But he started coughing and ended up back in the hospital in Lincoln. This time, his stay was two months.
“I wasn’t supposed to come home,” he said.
Jakub knows how lucky he is to be alive and able to enjoy his retirement. He and his wife have taken a few bus tours to spots around the country. They went to Ireland and Italy.
But the best part of retirement is spending more time with his family.
Two of his sons work in the power industry. Jeff works at Cooper Nuclear Station. Jonathan is the Manager of Enterprise Solutions in the Technology Services division at Lincoln Electric System.
But these days, his three children are overshadowed a bit by 11 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. He really enjoys how easy it is to make it to more of their school events— something that was a lot more difficult when he was in the workforce.
While Jakub loves challenges, he’s sure glad that one’s not on his list anymore.
“I can see my grandkids play sports, go to dances, and spend more time with them,” he said.
DAV (Disabled American Veterans) is dedicated to a single purpose: empowering veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity. We accomplish this by ensuring that veterans and their families can access the full range of benefits available to them; fighting for the interests of America’s injured heroes on Capitol Hill; and educating the public about the great sacrifices and needs of veterans transitioning back to civilian life.
This mission is carried forward by:
- Providing free, professional assistance to veterans and their families in obtaining benefits and services earned through military service and provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and other agencies of government.
- Providing outreach concerning its program services to the American people generally, and to disabled veterans and their families specifically.
- Representing the interests of disabled veterans, their families, their widowed spouses and their orphans before Congress, the White House and the Judicial Branch, as well as state and local government.
- Extending DAV’s mission of hope into the communities where these veterans and their families live through a network of
- state-level Departments and local Chapters.
- Providing a structure through which disabled veterans can
- express their compassion for their fellow veterans through a variety of volunteer programs.
- Connecting veterans with meaningful employment and preparing entrepreneurs to become job creators. DAV empowers veterans to pursue their maximum potential through DAV career fairs and intensive training. DAV job fairs have led to more than 168,000 job offers for veterans and spouses.
DAV IS FUNDED THROUGH DONATIONS. WANT TO HELP?
DAV Chamber #20, 1978 3rd Ave., Columbus, NE 68601
See this story in the Fall 2023 issue of the Generator.
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