Medal of Honor recipient shares perspective with students

by Rebecca Burylo
Air University Public Affairs

12/7/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Al -- Service and sacrifice may be familiar to those in uniform, but it doesn't hurt to have a reminder once in a while.

Medal of Honor recipient retired Army Col. Jack Jacobs was a featured guest speaker at the Air War College, the Air Command and Staff College, the Squadron Officer School and the Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy during a visit Nov. 29-30, where he explained to Maxwell students about never losing sight of why they fight.

Jacobs was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1969 by President Richard Nixon after his heroic actions during the Vietnam War. He has been out of uniform for more than 40 years, but still feels at home among military members he says the nation is lucky to have.

"I think that the whole notion of service and sacrifice transcends the uniform, and people who are wearing the uniform are dedicated people," he explained. "So I'm among friends here, even though I'm a Soldier among Airmen, because we're lucky to have these people."

Though retired, Jacobs is still a part of the military family and shared several war stories, infusing each with humor, though his experiences were far from being a stand-up comedy. One firefight he related ensued after his battalion was surrounded by Viet Cong forces, and the surgery needed to repair his head wound after shrapnel from a mortar round cut into his skull.

"Most of my combat stories are amusing, but are only amusing in retrospect," said Jacobs. "They weren't very funny on the day." All too familiar with the stressors that accompany combat duty,

Jacobs reminded those in uniform the value of what they do for the nation, especially from those outside the base."I think it's useful for them to hear someone more or less outside telling them how we appreciate what they're doing," he said. "I think they need to hear that because sometimes, in the everyday hubbub of doing work, they forget, and I don't want them to forget how important they are to the county."

Not only should they embrace the vital role they play in the nation's defense, but they should also remember to stay true to themselves, their oath and their mission. Each, Jacobs said, is easy to set aside once years of service become routine.

"It's not something you start the year and say, 'You know what? For this year's resolution I'm really going to be a straight arrow, true to myself, true to my oath and true to my mission,'" Jacobs said. "You got to say it. You got to remind yourself every day."

Those like himself, who are now living outside the military community, are not exempt from service. Jacobs, who is a part of numerous charitable organizations helping wounded service members and children whose parent was killed in action, said serving their community is the best way anyone can follow the example and show appreciation for the hard work of Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors.

"People in uniform are a great example for everyone, serving the community at large," Jacobs said. "They're really sacrificing for all of us. You don't have the time to do that? You can't do that? It's OK, you can still serve, but you can't do nothing."