“I read a quote from Chelsea Manning and I agreed with what it said. I started realizing that she was not like I’d been told and that I had a lot in common with her and her experience and her thinking and that was terrifying.”
By Bob Meola, Courage to Resist
February 4, 2015
First Lt. Jacob Bridge recently sat down with me and explained the process and events that brought about his transformation from military believer to Conscientious Objector. Jake submitted his application for CO status in June of last year. It is now at Marine Corps Headquarters in Quantico, Virginia and Jake is waiting to hear whether he will be granted CO status.
Jake was 13 years old and in the 7th grade when the World Trade Center was hit on 9/11. He could see plumes of smoke from Washington Rock Lookout Point, near his home in Stirling, New Jersey. This was the lookout point that enabled General George Washington to view the movement of the British army during the American Revolution. In high school, Jake knew he wanted to be in the military—first in the army, and later in the marines, because they were tough, because they had the reputation of being the toughest of all of the branches of the military.
Jake believed that being a marine would, “make you a man and that it was honorable and a challenge. It was patriotic. Seeing the planes going into the Twin Towers made me feel like the planes were crashing into my heart when they went into the building.
“I couldn’t understand why they would do that. When it was said that they hated our freedom, it was all I needed to hear.” Jake graduated from High School in 2007 and attended the University of Colorado in Boulder. There, he enrolled in Naval ROTC. When he graduated from college, in 2011, he also graduated as the Honor Graduate in the Commissioning Class at NROTC at CU, Boulder.
Jake entered the Marine Corps as a commissioned 2nd Lieutenant, in August, 2011. He had one year of training through 2012. He attended TBS [The Basic School] in Quantico, Virginia from March through September, 2012. Jake graduated #22 out of 270, in the top ten percent, from TBS. He later became a 1st Lieutenant, an O-2 classification rate.
Every Marine Corps officer is an infantry officer first, before getting assigned a specialty. Jake attended the Specialty School in Logistics at Camp Johnson, North Carolina, from October, 2012 to February, 2013. There he learned about supplies, troops, munitions, and moving them all around—a broad specialty.
Jake got to his unit in Hawaii in late February of 2013. He was part of the fleet marine force, the FMF, “the fleet”. According to Jake, “It was supposed to be awesome at that point. It wasn’t. I noticed things. The idea is that you are the moral and ethical leader and you have to set an example for 18 and 19 year old kids. I saw a lack of caring and compassion and love in marine supervisors.
“I was greeted by people who pretended to be that way. But off duty, they would drink and drive and buy prostitutes. They treated subordinates without respect. They were not ‘the best of the best.’ I questioned that if I didn’t trust my person, my bosses, my bosses’ bosses, Congress, the President, how could anyone be qualified to do what we were doing, to make the choice that this person, squad, or country needs to go to war and who needs to die? And that ‘what am I doing here in this job?’
“My first job in Hawaii was in the operations section. I managed the battalion’s training for the most part, from March, 2013 to September, 2013. Then, in September, 2013, I became a platoon commander. It was a landing support platoon. We got troops and supplies to where they needed to go in the Hawaiian Islands. I did that until June of 2014.
“As I was writing my application [for CO], I realized that I couldn’t train them to kill any longer and I’d be putting them in danger. I turned in my CO application and my boss—my captain, an O-3 and my major, an O-4 asked what would happen if they sent me into a big training operation in the Pacific Rim. I said that I honestly didn’t know whether I would show up. They thanked me for my honesty. I had worked for them when I first arrived in another job. I respected those two. Now they were my bosses again.
“The next day, I was no longer a platoon commander and they put me in Headquarters Company as an Executive Officer, managing in an office job—removed from hands on operation.
“Back in late July or early August of 2013, when I was still at my first job in the operations section, managing the battalion’s training, I had a conversation with my chaplain and I said that I was thinking about filing for CO status. She said that she was going away to finish her Masters in Divinity and I should contemplate it some more. I hadn’t yet been a platoon commander and thought I’d be a compassionate and good commander and wanted that experience. But when she came back a month later, I was absorbed in being a platoon commander and had not been thinking about it. But about nine months from when we first talked, I knew I was a CO. I told the chaplain that it was no longer ‘if’ but ‘when’—that I was certain I would apply for CO status. She was supportive. That was in May, 2014.
“Once I was relieved of being a platoon commander, for the next two weeks, I was writing and editing my CO application.
“In November , I read a quote from Chelsea Manning* and I agreed with what it said. I started realizing that she was not like I’d been told and that I had a lot in common with her and her experience and her thinking and that was terrifying. Then I saw the ‘Collateral Murder’ video. It was a huge impact on me and I knew there was no going back.” Jake has since written a letter to Chelsea Manning.
Jake became a vegan in July, last year, around the time of his birthday. He is 26 now. He is excited about his nonviolent commitment. I was glad that when he was on leave, he sought out a local contact for War Resisters League, in Berkeley, and found me. It was a pleasure to meet him. Jake’s contract with the Marines will end in September. Jake wants to connect with activists for peace and justice. I salute him. He deserves our support and best wishes for a speedy Honorable Discharge as a Conscientious Objector as soon as possible and long before his contract ends in September.
* The quote Jacob is referring to is from former US Army intelligence analyst PFC Chelsea Manning’s public letter to President Obama, which was read at her August 2013 sentencing for providing documents and video to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. Specifically:
Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts are advocated by those in power. When these cries of patriotism drown out any logically based dissension, it is usually the American soldier that is given the order to carry out some ill-conceived mission.
Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of democracy – the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott decision, McCarthyism, and the Japanese-American internment camps – to mention a few. I am confident that many of the actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar light.
As the late Howard Zinn once said, “There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”
I bless you, Jacob Bridge, in your choice. Had I the balls, I would have chosen your path when I was still in the Corps. I am now a member of Veterans for Peace.
Here is a post I sent to our local VFP folks: Good people,
I read this on a right-wing website: http://www.thedailysheeple.com/american-sniper-lies-and-propaganda-to-divide-a-nation_012015
Read many of the comments. Felt moved to send a reply of my own. I feel a great kinship with a lot of right-wing folk who are willing to color outside the lines and question the accepted orthodoxy, as do I.
I’m pleased with what I wrote and am interested in your comments.
Keeping my oath • 3 minutes ago
I will neither call anyone a name nor claim to be right. Just my story. USMC, 1968-71. Carried the bodies of Marines killed in Vietnam back to their families. I’ve seen the look in the eyes of those who lost a loved son. Even now, my eyes sting with the memory.
Don’t bother to thank me for my service. Back then, I just followed orders. Today is when I am fulfilling my oath of enlistment, which I never revoked. I’m a member of the Oathkeepers. Check with Grandpa Google to learn more. Someone I met through Oathkeepers, someone who killed lots of men with a machine gun in Vietnam, would agree with Brandon. He told me one day, “Until I learned who truly profits from war, I was in favor of any war at any time. I now oppose every war at every time.”
Read the link Brandon cites for MajGen Smedley Butler. The man WAS there. He thought he was doing the right thing. He was amply rewarded with promotions and two (2) Medals of Honor. Listen to his speech to the VFW, read his book War is a Racket. Ask what could have led him to repudiate what he did for thirty years.
You don’t need to agree with me. I’m not necessarily right. I simply invite you to look beyond your opinions and challenge yourself to learn from men who have done our country’s dirty jobs.
To you veterans of the war in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, welcome home. I’m glad for you and those you love that you made it back.
Very good article. I could almost cry for those who fell for the engineered, preplanned, traitorious 9-11. Having been not far from the OKC bombing I had friends on the ground who exposed that false flag so I didn’t believe the “news” on 9/11.
I was deferred from Joining the Marines for the Korean War by a good friend from his VA hospital bed. A quadraplegic from combat in Korea where he lost his Marine patrol. He said the enemy always knew what the US Marines were going to do.
thank you bob.. more and more brave ones like jacob are speaking out and standing up to atrocities in the name of liberties and freedoms.. we work on having more people recognize ‘war is a racket’and support out resistors. i actually live only minutes from stirling and just down the hywy to washington rock, n j. rebecca..
What great articles!!! I listened to Obama speak twice before his election in 2009, during which he stated Bush was going in the wrong direction and he would change course and govern this nation toward peace. Within nine months he sent 40,000 troops to Afghanistan. By now, 1,663 of our military have been killed by that action, and we are, as most people know, $18 trillion in debt. This was one giant bait and switch routines, and hope there is eventually a safe haven where the real heroes (those that will not kill others) can reside in joy and peace. I am sure God supports all who abide by his Commandment: Thou shalt not kill.
Good story. Congratulations on your epiphany, your psychological growth.
I’m applying for CO status at the Selective Service. During the war with Vietnam, I was defamed as 4F, unfit to serve. Conscientious objection to that war was the service, no alternative necessary. Organize a class action federal tort claim for being misled into that war, use McNamara’s book as evidence.
Wow! A OOT REMF requesting CO status. I’ve seen a lot in my time but this is a new one. Every day is a learning experience.
Bless you Jacob, for being willing to open your eyes, look honestly at the world in which you inhabit, and commit yourself to living in a way that seeks to affirm the better aspects of humanity rather than embrace the darker ones under the guise of “patriotism.”
Fourteen years ago I was a 1LT in the Army Reserve (Engineers). Before 9/11 I was very conflicted about my military “service,” as I had already come to the conclusion that it was not in accordance with any of the high-minded ideals that were ceaselessly repeated within the broader ranks and society-at-large to support it. But, rather than acting on it at that time, I chose to live with the cognitive dissonance and straddle two worlds. The events of 9/11/01 and predictable response on the part of the US government changed all that. I filed officially for CO in 2002, and my command in effect dragged out the process until I was legally discharged for turning down my promotion to CPT, likely because they realized that I would not go quietly if the application was denied, and they didn’t want to deal with the trouble.
I know firsthand how difficult this whole experience can be, and the conflicting feelings you experience throughout it. But I can also say that going through this gives you a much different perspective on life, compels you to examine the impacts of your life in every way imaginable, and forces you to work to change those aspects that do not match with your ideals. Godspeed, Jacob — I hope that through this process you are able to achieve a true sense of inner peace, and to then take that out into the world.
Thank you for speaking up with that sickening war child hating movie coming out.
Please, can you speak up for the war orphans’ right to Geneva Convention aid?
CNN and other mainstream media documents they don’t get even basic necessities:
MIT overview of human cost, Iraq: http://web.mit.edu/humancostiraq/
As the eldest son of a professional soldier (ex Desert Rat, dec’d) and from a family which has been soldiering for nearly 250 years around the Planet, I fully support the right of anyone who is a conscientious objectors.
We need all the moral help we can get, as a species almost uniquely given to murdering its own kind – & then gloryfying it!
‘Thank you, for your sense of humanity & ‘your service….
I spent nine years in the navy, 1962-71 and about 1970 I wrote a letter to the CNO and said what we were doing in Vietnam was wrong, I lost all my security clearances immediately. I was an E-5 waiting for E-6 when I wrote my letter. For the next few months I had to sweep a compound but never allowed to pick us the dirt. Monday I swiped it from one side to the other and Tuesday I swiped it back. After a few weeks of this people would came and talked to me and I would tell them the war was wrong. We picketed the base and had a time with all the people coming out of the base we knew. We did not stop the war but we help and that I am proud to write about so many years later. It is hard, but worth it. Thank you for your service for peace, that gets you an E ticket to heaven.