Saturday, September 20, 2014

Jacob David George, our brother

A news story headline from February 2013 that is part of our SOY display reads "VA: Suicides hit 22 per day."  That statistic just hit home in a terrible way when we learned that beloved Iraq Veterans Against the War member, singer-songwriter, bicycle activist, peacemaker Jacob David George, took his own life this week.  I remember meeting Jacob when he rolled into Austin by bicycle to attend the IVAW convention in July 2010.  His energy was contagious.  He crisscrossed the country on his bicycle to speak about his 3 army tours in Afghanistan and the moral injuries he sustained as a result.  His efforts to speak candidly about his pain and about his own views on the war were very meaningful for those who heard him speak and sing.

Jacob tried many kinds of treatment for his combat-related post-traumatic stress injuries.  He said that throwing his Army medals away during the IVAW protest at the NATO Summit in Chicago was one of the most healing actions that he had experienced.  He also returned to Afghanistan on a delegation with Voices for Creative Nonviolence to offer solidarity with the Afghan Peace Volunteers there.   The long term cure for war trauma is preventing war in the first place, and that was what Jacob was trying to do.  We mourn his death and the war that caused it.

Here are the lyrics to his 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

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

Jacob’s poem appeared in After Action Review, a collection of writings by vets published by Warrior Writers in 2011. He also transformed it into a song that he traveled around the country singing to the thumping strings of a banjo. With other vets, he did cross-country bicycle rides for peace. He liked to call himself “a bicycle ridin, banjo pickin, peace rambling hillbilly from Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas.”

A selection of Jacob George’s songs, from a collection called “Soldier’s Heart,” that he performed with a country band in Arkansas in 2013, was recorded in “Support Your Troops: A Special Report”:

Thanks to Jan Barry for posting these lyrics on his website

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

SOY launches new semester with tabling at Austin HS

Our first tabling of the new school year was great!  We really enjoyed being able to talk with students at Austin HS today during lunch.  Our list of what to do for a free t-shirt grew longer, as we added another couple of activities, such as asking students to write their ideas for how to help stop and prevent war.

We provided our usual brochures on military realities, alternatives to military enlistment, and an assortment of stickers, paper folders and reprints of the comic book-style story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott that was produced by the Fellowship of Reconciliation.  Students were up to the t-shirt challenge and we appreciated their ideas toward International Day of Peace (coming up on Sept. 21).  Their responses to the question, "What could help stop or prevent war?" were these:

Results of the Penny Poll were almost equally tied priorities for Health Care, Education and the Environment (72, 72 and 71 pennies in those jars, respectively), 52 pennies for Humanitarian Aid and 42 pennies for the Military.

It was good to see this poster for a Global Student Leaders Summit on environmental sustainability and the announcement about the Spring 2015 trip to Costa Rica as part of that.  Austin HS has an Academy for Global Studies.  We agree that knowing more about the world is part of the solution!