The Buccaneers kicked off their Salute to Service efforts on Monday with the help of former tight end Vincent Jackson and his Jackson in Action 83 Foundation to help repair Marine Corps veteran Ed Wickliffe and his wife Molly's home, which was suffering from significant storm damage. The project was in conjunction with UnitedHealthcare's "Do Good Week," which aims to inspire kindness and spread good news.
Early that morning, Jackson showed up along with over a dozen volunteers from UnitedHealthcare to the Wickliffe home in Northdale, Florida. They got to work right away on everything from landscaping to repainting for Wickliffe, who was drafted into the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War in the 1960s. A bulk of the structural work, including a new roof, had also been completed as part of an effort to bring the home back up to code following damage suffered during one of the area's hurricane seasons.
The Jackson in Action 83 Foundation was notified of the issues and even fines Wickliffe was facing through Operation Code Vet Inc, which identifies and helps veterans who have fallen behind on code violations get back up to the proper standards.
"He's served our country very well and now he's one of our neighbors," Jackson said. "We now get a chance to come out here and help him."
Vincent Jackson, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver and founder of Jackson in Action 83, is joining UnitedHealthcare's "Do Good. Live Well." employee volunteer initiative and Operation Code Vet to renovate the home of a local veteran in need this Veterans Day during the fourth annual Do Good Week.
Jackson himself has taken up a special mission to aid military families in the Tampa Bay community after he enjoyed a five-year playing career with the Buccaneers. Tampa's strong military ties even inspired the launch of his foundation in 2012.
"I'm a military brat myself," Jackson said. "My mother and my father both served in the armed forces. My dad was in the Army for 21 years so I know what military folks go through. I know what the families go through so for me to pay it forward is something near and dear to my heart by serving these men and women and their families."
The Buccaneers also added a little more fun to the morning with a surprise before the work began for the day. Executive Director of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation Brian Bell presented Wickliffe and his wife with two tickets to the 2020 Super Bowl in Miami, much to the surprise of Ed. The couple was grateful not only for the surprise, but primarily for the time and effort they saw in all the volunteers through the project. No stranger to being on the giving end, they were on the receiving end of a pay-it-forward effort this time.
"I take it very personally," Wickliffe said. "It makes me emotional to even think about it. My wife and I have volunteered ourselves from time to time. But we never expected to need to have any of that returned. The way I look at it, it's almost like a karma thing. We've volunteered a little time of our own and boy, look at this. What a return."
The Buccaneers will continue to honor the nation's military during their Salute to Service game against the incoming New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium this Sunday.