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Jacob David George, 1982-2014
By Robert Clack
On September 18th the nation's veteran suicide epidemic hit the IVAW and VVAW families when beloved IVAW member Jacob David George took his own life. From Arkansas, George was an Army veteran who had served 3 tours in Afghanistan. George became disillusioned by his war experience, saying "most of us are poor farmers killing poor farmers while most of our nation is starving."
Suffering from PTSD and what George would describe as moral injury incurred from his war experience, George found healing and relief from participating in the anti-war movement and speaking out against the occupation of Afghanistan. After leaving the Army George joined IVAW and in May 2010 founded the group, A Ride to the End, with his brother Jordan George.
A musician and cyclist, George combined both loves in A Ride Till the End by traveling with fellow veterans and supporters performing music and speaking out against the war as well as speaking about his struggles as a returning veteran suffering from PTSD. George would end up traveling over 8,000 miles performing and spreading his message of peace. George would also travel back to Afghanistan as part of a peace delegation that volunteered with Afghan youth.
Part of George's reconciliation efforts with the Afghan community would also occur in the lead up to the NATO summit in Chicago in 2012. George was a key member in developing IVAW's collaboration with Afghans for Peace and would later talk about the catharsis of returning his medals at the summit as "transformative" and as "healing his soul."
After news of his death, there was an enormous response from US veteran and peace communities, with remembrance gatherings organized in Chicago and Boston, as well as other parts of the country. On September 21st, at the world's largest climate change march in New York members of IVAW carried a banner quoting his lyrics, "We support the troops and we're gonna bring war to an end."
At the Chicago gathering, IVAW member Derek Giffin remembered his fallen friend, "He would crash at my apartment whenever he was biking through town, which was fairly often. He loved raw fruits and vegetables. I remember his omnipresent smile, his beautiful energy."
Speaker after speaker shared a story of their fallen friend, commenting on his kindness, his sincerity and about his very serious commitment to peace. Although an emotional gathering, IVAW Chicago member Vince Emanuele reminded participants to celebrate his life and that George, "would have wanted us to have a good time as well."
In remembering George, Giffin concluded, "People should strive to attain the level of love and empathy Jacob exhibited on a daily basis, his dedication to peace."
Services for George were held in Fayetteville Arkansas on October 5th.
Robert Clack is a labor, community and anti-war organizer in Chicago.