Last week “bicycle ridin, banjo pickin, peace rambling hillbilly from Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas” Jacob David George died as a result of moral injuries sustained in Afghanistan. Jacob joined the US Army before the attacks of 9/11. He served three tours of Afghanistan (2001, 2002, 2003/4) and came back a changed man. He said that after witnessing wholesale slaughter and picking through body parts he was affected by Post Traumatic Stress. He understood that to be profoundly affected by war was not a disorder. Jacob often talked about the moral component of PTS, the trauma caused by taking part in or witnessing events that are contrary to your very being. This is different to the PTSD of the military psychiatrist who is interested in events that put the individuals own life in danger. This is the opposite, it is trauma caused by harming others. Jacob advocated for healing rituals and ceremonies to come to terms with the trauma of war. He talked about the need to heal the soul as well as the brain. He described throwing his medals back to the US Government during the 2012 NATO protests in Chicago as the most therapeutic thing he had done. The following is a poem written by Jacob that he later turned into a song.
Support the Troops
“We just Need to support the troops” is what they tell me well,
This is from a troop so listen carefully,
What we Need are teachers who understand the history of this country,
What we Need is a decent living wage, so people ain’t cold and hungry,
What we Need is bicycle infrastructure spanning this beauteous nation.
What we Need are more trees and less play stations,
What we Need is a justice system that seeks the truth,
What we Need are more books and less boots,
What we Need is love for every woman and man,
From southern Louisiana to the mountains of Afghanistan.
Now, it’s true the troops need support,
The support to come home,
They need treatment and jobs and love for the soul,
See, war ain’t no good for the human condition,
I lost a piece of who I was on every single mission,
And I’m tellin’ you, don’t thank me for what I’ve done,
Give me a big hug and let me know we’re not gonna let this happen again,
Because we support the troops and we’re gonna bring these wars to an end.
In the USA 22 veterans kill themselves every day. In 2012 more UK soldiers and veterans killed themselves than were killed in Afghanistan. In the USA 30% of veterans have considered suicide. More veterans of the Falklands War have committed suicide than were killed in action. The suicide rate among veterans in the USA is double that of the civilian rate. These statements are controversial not because they overestimate the problem but because these figures do not include the veterans who drink themselves to death. The veterans who no longer care for their own well being and drive cars into trees or the veterans who die homeless on the streets. To admit the scale of the problem would be an admission that war is harmful to those who take part in it long after returning home.
In memory of Jacob David George and in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the USA please consider donating to the Jacob George Celebration of Life Fund which will help pay for a celebration/memorial event on Sunday 5 October in Fayetteville, Arkansas.