As I'm sure you are all aware I am totally against the Iraq war. It was poorly intended, poorly planned, poorly articulated, and poorly carried out from the beginning. Despite the fact that the reasons and intentions of the war were completely corrupt from the start, it is people - our friends and family - that are fighting that war. As a democracy we sent these people to war. They deserve our respect and support for the excellent job they are doing at the task we've set them to, regardless of our political views. Furthermore, time doesn't go in reverse. We're there now, whether the reasons given for the war were sound, and our job is to make Iraq a decent place to live. War is hell and we do have a responsibility to help heal the wounds to any degree that we are able.

A man from my highschool, Sgt. Jacob Demand, died in 2004 in Mosul and is mentioned in the video above from Frontline, part of the excellent Bad Voodoo's War story they produced. He was a Stryker commander. I got wind of this video and it answered alot of questions for me that I hadn't really asked myself when I heard he died. It sounds like the Jake I knew. Jake was a hell of a guy. I didn't know him closely, although in a school of only ~100 kids you know everyone more or less intimately. He was a grade ahead of me.

I remember once when I was in third or fourth grade Jake used to mercilessly tease and prod me on the bus. I was a quiet kid who was probably far too sheltered and credulous. Jake, as usual, was garrulous, playful, and a bit hard to take. I put up with it for several weeks until one day he started hitting me in the back of the head and flicking my ears from a seat behind me. I turned around and hit him square in the nose, bloodying it badly enough that he apparently had a hard time hiding it from the bus driver when he got off after me.

The thing about Jake was that he did everything for a good time. When I finally had had enough he was cool with it and it never happened again. There were no retaliations for my nearly breaking his nose. In fact, the next day he was making everybody laugh with the story of how he had tried to cover up the evidence from the bus driver to avoid punishment for fighting; evidence, according to him, that by that time was running down his hand and arm. In the spirit of most grade school fights we were better friends afterwards. In fact we got along pretty well for the rest of my time in school, as he did with nearly everyone. There's something about punching a guy in the nose, you just feel a connection with him that sticks around I guess. I've always thought pretty highly of Jake after that and after hearing of his death he pops into my head at the strangest of times.

He later played the right guard and tackle positions next to me on the football team. If, as center, I was the leader of the offensive line Jake was the motivator. He was loud, in your face, and could get the blood pumping in all of us. Somebody on one of his memorial websites mentioned that before every patrol in Iraq Jake would yell, "This Rocks!," no matter how bad the patrol seemed to be shaping up. That sounds like Jake to me. He was also excellent at playing mind games with the opposing defense. There wasn't an opposing defensive linemen that wasn't reminded who was in charge, not-so-subtly chided about their mother, or made to look foolish with a well timed one liner preceded or followed by a thunderous blindside pull-block or switch from Jake. He also worked as hard as he talked, something that can be rare in someone with as big a mouth as Jake could have from time to time. From that I can see why he would have been a good soldier.

It doesn't surprise me that Jake died helping his friends, or that even in his last moments he kept doing what needed to be done to make sure they were safe. If you didn't know him he might have seemed brash, a hell-raiser (he was certainly a daredevil) or to possess a mouth slightly larger than what he could back up. Jake lived for people though, he never pushed them away and his braggadocio was never a result of insecurity as is often the case. He was always trying to make somebody laugh and I get the sense that he was that way because he cared personally for people and their happiness. I know everyone says that those who have died were 'always trying to make people laugh'. It almost sounds trite now after all the news of deaths in far flung countries over the last few years. In this case it isn't a trite pleasantry, Jake really spent the majority of his life making people laugh with whatever he was doing.

So, hat's off to Jake Demand and to all the other guys and gals out doing the dirty work that we sent them out to do. It's work I wouldn't wish on anyone, and yet they decided to do it freely. I think it deserves our support and respect.