"Elizabeth Nicole Jacobson, 21, loved SpongeBob Squarepants, craved the smell of cut grass, and wanted to have two children named Hunter and Austin."
So begins the Palm Beach Post obituary for the first female U.S. airman killed in the line of duty in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. According to a news release from Goodfellow Air Force Base, Jacobson was on duty on Sept. 28 providing convoy security, and was killed when her vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device.
At her Oct. 9 funeral in Pompano Beach, Fla., her father – David Jacobson of Vallejo, Calif. – spoke of his last conversation with Elizabeth, three days before her death. She had called him in tears from Kuwait; during the drive from Iraq, a dog ran in front of her vehicle and was killed.
"She felt horrible," he relayed. Even in combat, she managed to find "compassion for all."
Five years ago, David Jacobson began practicing as an Orthodox Jew; a few years later, his father – Allan Jacobson of Pembroke Pines, who didn't know he was Jewish until the age of 9 – began to explore Orthodoxy, too.
"Her mother wasn't Jewish, so she wasn't Jewish," said Allan Jacobson of his granddaughter. "But she believed that if her father had determined that a [traditional] Jewish life was for him, it must be the right thing."
Elizabeth Jacobson had "Jewish" stamped on her dog tags, and her father and grandfather both believed that she intended to convert to Judaism upon her return from Iraq.
"[She] witnessed my transformation from a completely non- observant, secular Jew, to what I am today," said her father. "She was part of that, and it affected her."
Motivated by 9/11
The terror attacks of Sept. 11 motivated Jacobson – an 11th-grader born in Orlando, Fla.; raised in California; and who lived briefly in Riviera Beach, Fla. – to join the military.
"I told her over two years ago that enlisting after 9/11 meant she would definitely see combat," recalls David Jacobson.
"She said she was prepared for that. She believed that being there [in Iraq] meant not fighting them here. Jacobson spent two years in the 17th Security Forces Squadron (the Air Force equivalent of Military Police) at Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas before being assigned to the 586th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron in Iraq three months ago."
At the funeral, fellow officers presented her father and mother, Marianne Earheart of California, with American flags.
Her family also received her Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals.
"She was an outstanding airman who accepted all challenges and responsibilities without wavering," said Col. Scott Bethel, 17th Training Wing commander. "She was the sparkplug that made the squadron go."
A written statement from the family expressed how proud they were of her: "Elizabeth made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation and the cause of freedom."
"Elizabeth knew that by fighting in Iraq, she was, in effect, protecting Israel," said her father. And "she was very proud of that."