Honoring Jacob George: Soldier of Conscience, Visionary Peace Maker
Last week this inspiring young man took his life after Obama announced that we are going back to Iraq for more war. He was a 3-tour Afghanistan veteran turned activist, who was committed to riding his bike cross country until the wars end. He was a soldier for conscience and a visionary peace maker, walking his own path and standing for peace.
And he was a friend of mine.
I’ll never know all that Jacob had witnessed. What he endured. What he faced inside himself every day.
In fact, other than sharing a few emails, I only met him once–at the IVAW (Iraq Veterans Against the War) conference where I was presenting the Honor Window work with Thad Crouch.
Jacob had volunteered to fight after 9-11. I imagine he’d wanted to stand for our safety and freedoms, and to be a protector of his people. He was willing to risk his life to stand for people and values he felt were worth standing for.
But after three tours enduring and witnessing the human toll that war brings, when his younger brother was called up to go to war, he had a change of heart about these wars that wouldn’t end. Maybe it was when he looked into his younger brother’s eyes and saw a life that might be taken that he came face to face with the insanity–not know what we were fighting for any more, not knowing feeling it was worth the life of his brother? From what I understand, that’s when he withdrew from the path honored by the military, and began on a new mission. A mission for peace. A mission for human life. For his brother’s life. For the lives and souls of the men and women being injured on a soul level due to war.
He would ride his bike across the US–until everyone came home. A big commitment, and a bigger one than I was willing to make. I too was disillusioned by the seemingly endless wars. I too was angry that so many soldiers and veterans were turning to suicide or being left forever morally injured.
Jacob had ridden his bike to Austin from Houston, I believe, to be at the IVAW conference with his younger brother. He joined Thad and I at a lunch table and shared his vision, his poetry, his project and his newfound joy at being a kind of missionary for peace. Stopping along the highway to meet strangers, tell them his story and open hearts and minds. He was a missionary called by his heart to walk a path that many of his countrymen shamed. In the eyes of some, maybe he was a traitor, a quitter. In my eyes, there is great honor in leaving something, when staying would require compromising your conscience, your values. I honor his stand to walk free, and ride til the end.
I remember telling him about the iStand that Thad and I wanted to offer to Soldiers of Conscience like him. He was indeed a Soldier of Conscience–a man who took a stand to follow the call of their heart or conscience even when it disagreed with his orders. JFK and Einstein noted that our world has a chance to know peace when the Conscientious Objector becomes honored in society just the same as we honor our soldier.
Thad and I had wanted to fill our iStand with men like Jacob. A few other soldiers had told me this sacred honor ceremony and training had told me saved their lives, and we felt that lives were at stake. But to date we haven’t led one. In fact just prior to that IVAW conference, I’d canceled an iStand for Soldiers of Conscience like Jacob, because of poor decisions I’d made.
I never met Jacob again. I thought of him at times over the next few years, and I wish I still had the chance to give to this man, to honor him, to stand for him and with him. I know he explored many options for healing along his journey. I don’t know that I could have made the difference in his life, but I do wish he was still here in person. And yet, I honor his choice to go, to choose when his ride ends.
One gift I am realizing by the life and death of this young man… is a rekindling of my desire to find more Jacobs and to stand with them. To ride with them.
Please take a moment to honor Jacob by watching his video above, reading his story and/or sharing it. Here’s his web site: http://operationawareness.org/