Rogue Valley veteran's poem hits YouTube

In a YouTube video, Iraq war veteran Jake Jacobs walks out on stage and dumps a pile of prescription drug bottles out of his backpack.

"Anybody wanna party?" he asks, prompting laughs from the crowd that gathered on Memorial Day last year at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to hear poems read by veterans who took part in a retreat outside Ashland.

There are no more laughs as Jacobs reads his poem "This OIF Vet is Heavily Medicated for Your Protection."

About Vicodin, he says, "I swallow down that little tab. It's supposed to keep me from being sad."

There's Clonidine for rage, Zoloft for depression and Lorazepam for anxiety.

"Explosions, flashes, destruction and screams, you can't let these in my dreams. Taken before bed and you don't let them in. I wouldn't make it through the night if it wasn't for my Prazosin," Jacobs reads.

He says that within 24 hours, he'll take several more types of drugs.

"I've told my story, so I'll take a bow. I hope you all feel safer now," he reads.

Posted at, it's not the type of material a person expects to find on YouTube, the video sharing site best known for showcasing the antics of teenagers.

But within the next few weeks, more videos of veterans reading poems from the Memorial Day event will be posted on YouTube, as well as at, said Bill McMillan, co-founder of The Welcome Home Project.

With broad community support and donations, his nonprofit organization held the retreat and performance last year that included veterans of wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, plus their family members.

He and fellow co-founder Kim Shelton are making a documentary film about the retreat and public performance in hopes that other communities will create similar events for their veterans. They see YouTube as another way to reach people.

"We picked Jake's poem because we thought it would have a strong effect on the Web — it is visual, he is just a normal young guy, and his poem is very direct and clear about his experience with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder.) Also, we are trying to see how we can use the Web to interest people all over the country in what we are doing here," McMillan said.

He said Jacobs now lives in White City with his wife and toddler son.

In addition to making YouTube videos, McMillan and Shelton are nearly finished with a 15-minute trailer that they will use to promote the documentary film. The film will take about $200,000 to complete.

They plan to use the trailer to help with fundraising for the film. The Ashland Veterans of Foreign Wars branch has made a donation and members are attempting to get other VFW branches in Oregon to donate as well, McMillan said.

During their fundraising efforts, McMillan and Shelton also plan to do outreach that will help with distribution of the film once it's complete. For example, they plan to make connections with deans of students at community colleges and universities around the nation, he said.

Partly because of the new G.I. Bill, more veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are going to college, where faculty and other students know little about the veterans' experiences, McMillan said.

He added: "We see the film as a way that schools could encourage a conversation that never seems to happen, and that often results in veterans feeling very isolated and certain that the rest of the population doesn't care about what they have done in the military."

Officials at veterans centers are also interested in showing the film, according to McMillan and Shelton.

For more information, including details on how to make a tax-deductible donation for the documentary film, visit

Veterans' poems from last year's Memorial Day event have been collected in the book "Voices of Vets: A Bridge Back to the World."

It's available for $12 and can be ordered by visiting

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or

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