He worked for Floats Unlimited in Washington, D.C., once building a float for the George H.W. Bush presidential inaugural parade. He later moved to Florida to build floats for the Orange Bowl.
"But for 40 years I dealt with pain and medication," he said of his leg injury.
A few years ago, his knee got infected when he broke a bone in his leg after slipping in his garage.
"That was the worst pain, worse than getting hit [in Vietnam]. I was sick as a dog with that infection," he remembered. "Finally, the doctor said 'let's take it off.'"
Jackson said it would be easy, after an amputation, for someone to get discouraged and think living an independent life would be a thing of the past.
"I know a lot of guys that get a prosthesis and don't even wear them," he said. "I'm just now getting to the point where I can wear it all day. I used to only be able to for four hours at a time." When he cycles, he removes his prosthesis, because his hand hits it while he turns the wheel.
Jackson is now on his third leg since surgery. Doctors ease patients into different prosthetics over time.
"As I progress, I move to another. Each one I can do a little more on," he said. "My doctor said I'm moving faster than the leg can be made."
Jackson wants to inspire more veterans to take part in the wheelchair competition. Six other West Virginians attended the games this year, and Jackson met them during the opening ceremony.
"After we met, we supported each other," he said. "I hope we can have a team [from the state] next year."
Reach Kate White at kate.wh...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.