Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Recognizing a truly honorable vet

Wick's World

 


The first night I met him in the northern woods of Minnesota, Jacob George stood out like a deer in headlights. One hundred men from around the country were gathered in a lodge for their annual get-together to help make this a better world.

Jacob was a much younger man than most of us, but we soon became aware that this young man who referred to himself as a “bicycle ridin’, banjo pickin’, peace ramblin’, hillbilly farmer from the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas” was wise beyond his years. Although he had grown up as the son of a dirt farmer, he often spoke of the teachings he received from an Arkansas medicine woman. Those teachings carried this highly decorated Special Forces paratrooper through three combat tours in Afghanistan. A Purple Heart was among the many medals he received for bravery. However, I soon learned his biggest war wound was not physical, but the moral wound he was carrying in his soul. That wound was very much in evidence that evening.

Following the war, Jacob eventually landed back in Arkansas where he heeded the advice of the medicine woman who told him, “Grief is pain trying to leave the body.”

Consumed by his physical and emotional wounds, Jacob found a way to alleviate his grief and wage war against the violence perpetrated in some far-away country. He strapped a banjo to a bicycle (later on strapped his dog) and began a ride around rural Arkansas to promote peace, not war. He eventually traveled across our nation calling his journey of thousands of miles “A Ride to the End.” For Jacob, this was a way to stop drowning in guilt and being haunted from the horrible things he had to do to survive what he called “the demons of war.”

Jacob George soon joined several peace-promoting veterans groups and became the co-founder and poster boy for Afghan Veterans Against the War Committee. After a few years of spreading a message of peace, often through his album “Soldier’s Heart,” Jacob felt the need to return to Afghanistan, this time as a civilian.

Later that evening after most of the men went to bed, I had the honor and privilege to listen to a most incredible tale about war from a young man who had not yet reached his 30th birthday. As we sat in the dark by the lake, Jacob began telling me his tale. While back in the war zone, he found himself in a small village where he became surrounded by Afghan peace advocates. He met a 15-year-old boy who was a farmer just like him and they discussed "the absurdity of poor farmers being sent to kill poor farmers while people are starving." 

“I found myself in as much danger as the years when I was fighting the war. To go back to Afghanistan as a civilian, I knew I had to dress and look like an Afghani. I often found myself staring down the gun barrel of an American soldier. That’ll give you cause for reflection.”

When President George W. Bush misled our country from the task of finding Osama Bin Laden and invaded Iraq, I didn’t have to travel to a war zone to personally feel the shame Jacob George was speaking about. A few weeks ago, our current leader, President Barak Obama, announced an ongoing war against ISIS, ISIL, The Islamic State or whatever term you want to use. For Jacob George, he realized that for him, “A Ride to the End” meant he would be riding for the rest of his life.

At the end of the week, he was just leaving the camp when I spoke with him one last time. “Some day, I want to become an elder, just like you guys,” he said.

The shameful truth is that at least 20 vets a day commit suicide, far more than die in combat. Following President Obama’s address to the nation, I am sad to say, Jacob George committed suicide.

 

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