Rodney Jackson is shown inside his Big Sky Montana camper on Oct. 24. (HCP photo by Rory Ryan)
Rodney Jackson is shown inside his Big Sky Montana camper on Oct. 24. (HCP photo by Rory Ryan)
A disabled former police officer and U.S. Army veteran is now calling a small fifth-wheel camper home in northern Highland County.

He met with The Highland County Press this week inside his Big Sky Montana camper parked in a rural area on private property between Leesburg and Greenfield.

Rodney E. Jackson, 59, is a former police officer and advocate for the disabled. He grew up in Cincinnati, attended law enforcement training through Scarlet Oaks and graduated from Northern Kentucky University.

He served as an officer with the police and/or fire departments for Lincoln Heights, Blue Ash, Morrow and other communities. He suffered a heart attack in his cruiser in 1990 and was medically disabled in 1995.

According to his biographical information from the Office for Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center in Fairfax, Va. (see https://www.ovcttac.gov/views/HowWeCanHelp/dspSpotlightGallery_Ind.cfm?cs=rjackson), Jackson’s area of expertise was as an “expert in working with first responders to develop public safety and disability products.

“He began his career in law enforcement and public safety in 1975, ultimately serving with five police jurisdictions and three fire departments. He worked with police and fire departments and associations training public safety officials across the United States to develop public safety and disability products and projects that will enhance the ADA of 1990. He has mediated more than 300 cases of discrimination and civil rights violations, including the rights of seniors and of people using assistance animals. He coordinated a national team of police officers trained in American Sign Language to assist in national disasters. He served as the vice chair of Health & Welfare on the Ohio Governor's Council on People With Disabilities.”

Jackson told The Highland County Press that he was forced to sell his house in Hamilton County due to a myriad of medical issues and financial problems. He said he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and suffers vision and breathing difficulties. He uses oxygen and is reluctant to turn on a small electric heater with the oxygen tanks inside the camper.

“Today, I’m fearful of pretty much everything,” Jackson said with a laugh. “I’m vision-impaired, and my brain doesn’t always work correctly. I worry if I have the oxygen on. What if I forget and leave the heat on? Will it be OK? It’s cold in here today (Tuesday, Oct. 24) because I haven’t turned the heat on yet. I would like for someone to drill a hole through the camper – I call it my ‘Hospice RV’ – so I can put the oxygen tanks outside and run the line through to the bedroom.”

Jackson said that one of the ironic things about his present situation is that he used to be an instructor for survival classes.

“I’ve worn a uniform since Scarlett Oaks. That’s a long time,” he said. “For three years, I taught survival classes to seniors and the disabled. Now, I am asking myself: ‘Do I stay here and join the community and pass away here or do I move away?’”

He said he attended church services in Leesburg this past Sunday, after settling into his camper on Thursday, Oct. 19.

Jackson explained that he was able to put his camper on the Highland County property through a mutual friend of his and the owner of the property. He asked that his specific location not be publicized out of respect for the landowner’s privacy.

Jackson said he has reached out to Highland County Job and Family Services and the Highland County Veterans Service Office.

“The person I spoke with at Job and Family Services suggested I call Hamilton County, but I’m no longer living in Hamilton County,” Jackson said.

“The last time I spoke with a caseworker in Hamilton County – I’ve never even met her – she said they would talk to the Council on Aging. No one wants to be pro-active. I mean, what part of late-stage cancer don’t they understand?

“I know social service workers. Some are good at talking, but not at acting.”

In 2007, Jackson received the Profiles in Courage Award by the Fifth Third Bank, WCPO TV 9, the University of Cincinnati, the Urban League and the Cincinnati Herald. (See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6caRJ6dcso.)

In an April 15, 2003 Hometown Heroes story by Janet C. Wetzel in The Cincinnati Enquirer (http://enquirer.com/editions/2003/04/15/loc_hh.jackson15.html), the author writes: “The former police officer has fought many battles, both before he was forced to medically retire in 1995 and since. He's won some, including founding the Greater Cincinnati Mediation Council for the Deaf in 1985 and The Police Interpreter's Association in 1986. He's also lost some, including a fight to get non-audible tornado warning systems for the hearing-impaired in communities nationwide. Jackson has worked with the deaf since 1984 and worked as an interpreter for Hispanic immigrants.”

Today, Jackson said he needs whatever assistance may be available. With winter and colder temperatures coming, he knows his present situation is not good. “I’m not homeless,” Jackson said with his infectious laughter.

But he is in a predicament. His “Hospice RV” notwithstanding.

• Mr. Jackson can be reached via email at theada.1@juno.com.