PALOUSE, Wash. – The flags that line this Eastern Washington farm town’s main street were put up on Election Day to remind people to vote. They won’t come down now until Sgt. Jacob H. Demand’s body comes home.
The 29-year-old Stryker Brigade soldier was killed Tuesday by small-arms fire west of Mosul, Iraq. He was the commander of a Stryker armored vehicle. The U.S. Central Command reported that five others were injured in the attack.
News travels fast in a town of 1,000 people, where each resident not only knows but cares about everyone else. By Wednesday, news of Palouse’s first combat death of the war touched every home.
“It brings the war so close,” Mayor Michael Echanove said. “It makes it so even the smallest of communities like Palouse cannot escape the war.”
It’s hard to forget a kid, when he graduates with a class of just 23, and Demand apparently was easier to remember than most. His former teachers recall a youth who liked to help others, someone you liked to be around.
His 1995 class photo hangs in the Garfield-Palouse School, where his mother, Char Baldwin, works as a para-educator. His stepfather, Bruce Baldwin, manages the Palouse Grange Growers. Demand was divorced with three children, who live with their mother in Indiana.
“A civilian-looking military vehicle pulls up in front of the office, and then you know what happened,” said Rick Wekenman, the Baldwins’ friend and a city councilman.
The soldiers who got out of that vehicle on Tuesday told the Baldwins how Demand died. At the Pullman home where they’ve lived for less than a month after many years in Palouse, Char Baldwin recounted the critical part of what the soldiers said.
“He took three rounds in the abdomen,” she said. “He made it to a U.S. base, but they were not about to save him.”
Demand enlisted in the Army two weeks after graduating from high school. He served in Troop B, 1st Squadron of the 14th Cavalry, based at Fort Lewis, Wash. His unit is assigned to Task Force Olympia, in charge of military operations in Northern Iraq. He had served previously in Saudi Arabia and South Korea, his mother said.
According to the News Tribune of Tacoma, Demand’s was the 18th Stryker Brigade death since the unit was deployed to Iraq 10 months ago.
“He was nervous about going over, and excited at the same time,” said Matt Atkinson, Demand’s friend since boyhood. “He knew he had to serve his duty and was proud of being a soldier.”
Atkinson, who graduated from Garfield-Palouse a year before Demand, played baseball with his friend in high school – Atkinson pitched, Demand caught.
“He was a brutally honest, sincere person with a kind heart,” Atkinson said. “He was always there to hear your problems, and everybody loved him.”
Baseball coach Jim Stewart said the team wasn’t very good when Demand joined his freshman year. By the time he was a junior, the team went to state.
“Jake was a stand-up kid, a guy you’d just like to be around,” Stewart said.
Demand’s fourth-grade teacher, Jay Iverson, and high school world history teacher, Dennis Griner, remember a really good kid they watched grow up in their school.
“He graduated a long time ago, but it is a closeness you just don’t lose when a student walks out the door,” Griner said.
Buddy Carter, Demand’s FFA instructor, said the youth had no doubts about what he wanted to do when he graduated.
“He wanted to go into the Army when he started to get the educational benefits,” Carter recalled, “and he found a home that he liked.”
As the Garfield-Palouse students went home for the day Thursday, Carter pondered Demand’s sacrifice and what it meant to his little town.
“These kids have never known anyone killed in combat,” he said. “Now you understand what’s happening out there.”
Demand had two sisters, Jolynn and Tory, and a brother, Tim. His father, Keith Demand, lives out-of-state.
Baldwin said her son loved hunting and fishing, was an unusually friendly person and a fantastic son.
“He worked for nearly every farmer in Palouse during his high school years,” she said.
Saturday, those farmers will honor Demand when the town celebrates Palouse Days. Many will drive their grain trucks in the annual parade, Chamber of Commerce representative Patti Green-Kent said. Yellow ribbons will hang from the light poles. There will be a memorial service after the parade.
“The U.S. Army and this community have lost a great man,” Atkinson said. “It’s going to be hard not having him around to talk to.”