It all starts with my father, Jodie Jackson.
I grew up in Los Angeles under the guidance of my father who was in the Army. He taught me so many aspects of life that are so valuable now that I'm a father of a 3-year-old daughter, Nahla.
When you hear about someone who grew up in a military home, the first word that comes to mind for most people is discipline. And, yes, my father was strict, but I appreciated that. He taught me the importance of being prepared. Whether it's a game or a meeting or any interaction, you should be organized and have your act together.
Watching my father, I learned the importance of purpose and a solid work ethic. When you're at work, that should be your sole focus. That's what you're there to do.
My father was also my pop warner coach. He was a linebacker at Los Angeles Junior College before knee injuries ended his career. My twin brother, Marquis, and I started out as linebackers because of our dad. I learned that when a coach gives you instruction, listen to the words not how they're being delivered. That can be difficult when a coach is yelling, but it was a vital lesson for me to learn.
Now that I have a family, I admire how my father took care of us growing up. Some of my fondest memories include hanging out with him and watching football along with my twin brother. He would pick me up from school, cook dinner. He was there for us. That time with him was priceless and I wish I could have more of it. He passed away five years ago following complications from a stroke. He was only 47 years old.
To kick-off Salute to Service week the Eagles, in partnership with Toyota, visited the VA Hospital on Veterans Day.
Tomorrow's Salute to Service Game is huge for me, even though I won't be on the field with my brothers. Military members sacrifice so much for us. Salute to Service means a lot to the players because we have a lot of family members who are in the armed forces and we see those sacrifices firsthand. I've been able to travel to other countries and I realize how free we are as Americans. Why wouldn't you want to help the people who allow you to wake up and not worry about anything? It's important for us to recognize them and hopefully we're giving back and helping them do more.
When I played in Denver, the Broncos hosted a camp in Colorado Springs for military children whose parents were deployed. Just to see the smile on those kids' faces was inspiring. One mom told me that she hadn't seen her child smile as much as he did in a long, long time. That's when I knew that I was going to start my own foundation, Malik's Gifts.
I started Malik's Gifts in 2016 after I signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The three areas that I try to impact with the foundation are the military, at-risk youth, and animals. Those were all important to me when my dad was in the military. It's critical for us to help military families as much as we can. If something is broke or some expense needs to be covered while a family member is deployed, we step in to help with that. We’ve hosted coat drives, pet adoption drives, taken kids to movies, provided scholarships – different ways to showcase my gratitude.
It's important to give back to the youth. I've been told that in order to make the world better, you have to help people. I've set my daughter up for life. It was time to start giving back and become a pillar of the community. True happiness is found in helping others, which I hope to pass on to my daughter.
The Salute to Service Game provides another opportunity for me to shine a light on my father's legacy and thank all of the men, women, and families who serve our country. More importantly, it should act as a reminder that every day is an opportunity to do something for them.
Malik Jackson is the Eagles’ nominee for the NFL’s Salute to Service Award.
We joined forces with Bose to host a friendly night of video games between some of our players and veterans from the Wounded Warrior Project.