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Soldier's Heart: Remembering Jacob George, Afghan War Vet Turned Peace Activist Who Took Own Life

StorySeptember 29, 2014
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We air a remembrance of Jacob George, an Afghanistan War veteran and peace activist who took his own life on September 17. He was 32 years old. George co-founded the Afghan Veterans Against the War Committee, part of Iraq Veterans Against the War. George was also a musician who biked around the country playing music for peace, a campaign he called "A Ride Till the End." In 2012, at the NATO summit in Chicago, he was among the veterans who hurled their military medals toward the summit gates in an act of protest against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. George spoke openly about his struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder and with getting Veterans Affairs counselors to understand what he saw as a "moral injury" from his time in Afghanistan. In a storybook that accompanied his musical album "Soldier’s Heart," George wrote: "A wise medicine woman from Arkansas once told me that grief is pain trying to leave the body. If you don’t allow yourself to grieve, it gets stuck. But once you grieve, the body can heal itself. I won’t lie, some of this stuff is heavy. But telling my story is a part of my healing process. And it’s not just veterans who need to heal: all of us need to heal from war and the roster of ailments produced by a nation at war." Hear George playing the banjo and singing his song, "Soldier’s Heart."


TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We end the segment with a remembrance of Jacob George, an Afghanistan War veteran and peace activist who took his own life earlier this month. George co-founded the Afghan Veterans Against the War Committee, part of Iraq Veterans Against the War. In 2011, he and fellow veteran Brock McIntosh returned to Afghanistan to meet with young Afghan peace activists. McIntosh remembers George bonding with a 15-year-old Afghan boy, who, like George, was a farmer. Together, they discussed, quote, "the absurdity of poor farmers being sent to kill poor farmers while people are starving," McIntosh said. George was also a musician who biked around the United States playing music for peace, a campaign he called "A Ride Till the End." In 2012, at the NATO summit in Chicago, he was among the veterans who hurled their military medals toward the NATO summit gates in an act of protest against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

JACOB GEORGE: My name is Jacob George. I’m from the Ouachita Mountains in Arkansas. I’m a three-tour veteran of the Afghan War, paratrooper and sergeant. And I have one word for this Global War on Terrorism decoration, and that is "shame."

AMY GOODMAN: Jacob George spoke openly about his struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder and with getting VA counselors to understand what he saw as a "moral injury" from his time in Afghanistan. In a storybook that accompanied his musical album, Soldier’s Heart, Jacob George wrote, quote, "A wise medicine woman from Arkansas once told me that grief is pain trying to leave the body. If you don’t allow yourself to grieve, it gets stuck. But once you grieve, the body can heal itself. I won’t lie, some of this stuff is heavy. But telling my story is a part of my healing process. And it’s not just veterans who need to heal: all of us need to heal from war and the roster of ailments produced by a nation at war," he said.

Jacob George killed himself on September 17th, one week after President Obama unveiled the new U.S. military mission against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. George was 32 years old. We go to break with Jacob George singing "Soldier’s Heart."

JACOB GEORGE: [singing] Now, I’m just a farmer from Arkansas.
There’s a lot of things I don’t understand,
Like why we send farmers to kill farmers
In Afghanistan.
Now I did what I was told
For my love of this land,
And I come home a shattered man
With blood on my hands.
And now I can’t have a relationship,
I can’t hold down a job.
Oh, while some may say I’m broken,
I call it a soldier’s heart.
Because every time I go outside,
I’ve got to look her in the eyes,
Oh, and knowing that she broke my heart,
And it turned around and lied.
Oh, I said red, white and blue,
I trusted in you,
And you never even told me why.
Now in the summer of 2002,
I just got off the Pakistan border...

AMY GOODMAN: Jacob George singing "Soldier’s Heart." You can link to the whole song on our website at democracynow.org. He committed suicide on September 17th, an Afghan War veteran. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

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