A U.S. Marine from Spokane, Wash., and former Kubasaki soccer star was killed on New Year’s Day in Afghanistan, the Defense Department announced.
Sgt. Jacob M. Hess, 22, died while supporting combat operations in Helmand Province, said Lt. Hector Alejandro, a spokesman for the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, which covers the East Coast and is based in North Carolina. Details about the fatality were not immediately available, and the incident is under investigation, Alejandro said.
Hess graduated from North Central High School in 2009. Prior to that, he played three seasons of soccer for Kubasaki High School on Okinawa, scoring 21 goals in the 2008 season, 12 alone in the Far East Class AA Tournament which the Dragons won, their last soccer championship.
Mica Lamb, who coached Hess when he played on North Central’s soccer team, said Hess was “full of life.”
“Although Jake only played one season at North Central, he had a great impact on me and his teammates,” Lamb said. “His effort and inspiration led to a great turnaround in the culture of the program. Jake was the hardest worker I encountered in my tenure there. He was extremely well-liked by his teammates.”
Hess, who went by Jake, grew up in a military family and moved several times but spent about seven years of his youth in Okinawa. Just before his senior year, his family moved to Spokane.
Lamb said Hess spoke fondly of his time in Okinawa. He remembered how Hess’ mother, Keirsten Lyons, prepared his favorite Japanese delicacies at a team dinner she hosted. Lyons is the director of the Inland Northwest Red Cross’ regional service to the Armed Forces.
Spokane Mayor David Condon, who knows Hess’ mother through her work at the Red Cross, said he was saddened by the death and called on Spokane to help the young Marine’s family as they have helped so many others.
“Today it is our turn to stand as a community behind Keirsten and her family as she has done so many times before for others in Spokane,” Condon said in a statement.
Hess’ enrollment at North Central was a huge boost to the soccer team, which was coming off two winless seasons. He was profiled in The Spokesman-Review after the team started 3-2. At the time, Lamb credited the turnaround to the spark Hess gave the team.
“He hustles all over the field and I’ve never seen him get tired,” Lamb said in 2009. “No one wanted to be outworked by the new kid.”
Also an avid hockey player, Hess started playing soccer at 5 and credited his success to playing with military kids from different cultures who have varying styles of playing the game.
Hess told The Spokesman-Review in 2009 that he had hoped to finish high school at Kubasaki but decided to embrace his move.
“I started meeting people at the first practice,” he said. “I just went out there, worked hard and did what I could.”
While at North Central, Hess was enrolled in Running Start, the state program that allows students to earn college credit. He took courses at Spokane Falls Community College.
Hess joined the Marines in 2010, according to his Facebook page.
He served in Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 26. The squadron is based at Marine Corps Air Station New River, which is adjacent to Camp Lejeune, N.C., and supports the operations of a group that flies MV-22 Ospreys.