Colonel Jacob Helgestad

December 22, 1972 - May 17, 2024

Colonel Jacob C. Helgestad passed away on May 17, 2024 in Mankato, Minnesota after a strong fight against cancer. While his friends and family are shocked at the abrupt passing, they are grateful for every moment of his life.

Jake was born on December 22, 1972, to Jim and Pauline Helgestad and lived most of his younger years in Lonsdale, MN, where he has fond memories stealing corn from the corn trucks or playing baseball from sunup to sundown with the neighborhood kids. He graduated high school from New Prague High School in 1991, playing football, hockey and baseball. He also cultivated a big group of friends from high school. The stories of the Class of ‘91 run deep, along with their love for each other. Before Jake even graduated high school, he joined the National Guard as a young private, to pay for college at Mankato State University. At college, he met his wife Karry and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Speech Communication.

As early as fourth grade, Jake would write in school papers that he wanted to join the Army. It’s fair to say, he lived his dream. In 2001, Jake deployed as an enlisted chemical reconnaissance specialist deploying to Saudi Arabia. After 9/11, Jake dedicated his entire life to the service of our country. He attended Officer Candidate School and was commissioned as an Infantry Officer in Ft. Benning, Georgia. As a newly minted lieutenant, Jake deployed to Kosovo in 2004 where he would return home on a 7-day leave to watch his daughter Lucy be born. It was a series of trains, planes and automobiles to get him home for that occasion. In 2005, shortly after the birth of his son Samuel, Jake would deploy as the company executive officer of an infantry company in the Al Anbar province of Iraq. He would spend two years there leading the soldiers of Charlie Company in Operation Iraqi Freedom, but the stories of donkeys trying to kill them were always a favorite. Right before his final deployment, Jake’s unit was tasked with keeping the streets of Minneapolis safe during the George Floyd riots. There’s not a time that he drove by that I-35 Bridge that he didn’t reminisce on having “his guys” patrolling that bridge.

Jake’s final deployment was the highlight of his military career. He was the Battalion Commander of the 1-194 (known for their moniker “The Bastards”). As commander, he would lead a historic deployment for Operation Spartan Shield based out of Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Under his leadership, Jake led 425 soldiers in the evacuation of Kabul, Afghanistan by securing vital sectors of Hamid Karzai International Airport and providing humanitarian assistance. Jake was most proud that his Bastards were awarded the Army Presidential Unit Citation for the work they did during that deployment. He would always say no one was better or more prepared for this historic mission than his soldiers.

During the quiet moments of his life, Jake focused on being the best father to his children, Lucy and Sam, helping and supporting them whatever way he could. He also was the most committed and loyal husband to his wife. There wasn’t a decision that was made that didn’t keep his family front in center, including the decision to get two Master’s degrees, a Master’s in Arts in Military Operation from the School of Advance Military Studies (SAMS) in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas and a Master of Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College.

Jake is survived by his wife, Karry Helgestad; daughter Lucy Helgestad; son Sam Helgestad; parents Jim and Pauline Helgestad; sister Nekaya (Thomas) Simpson; mother and father-in-law Doug and Connie Petersen; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Jake’s legacy will live on through the countless lives he impacted both personally and in the military. He would have loved to hear the countless stories about how you felt encouraged to do something after you found him in your corner when he recognized something special about you. That was his gift, his legacy.

A Celebration of Life Service will be held Tuesday, May 28, 2024, at 10 AM at St. Wenceslaus Church with Colonel Buddy Winn officiating. Visitation will take place Monday, the 27th from 4-7 PM at Bruzek Funeral Home. There will be no morning visitation. Lunch will follow the service at Ridges at Sand Creek Golf Club. Private family burial will occur at Ft. Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis that afternoon where military honors will be conducted by the US Army National Guard Honors Team.

The family requests that, instead of flowers, donations be made in Jake's memory to the Minnesota chapter of Folds of Honor, an organization that supports the families of fallen soldiers: Make A One-time Gift - Folds of Honor Foundation

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Joe Brooks LTC (ret)
1 month ago

I served with Jake in Iraq under 1BCT. He was a hard working man and he was an inspiration to the Soldiers he served with. He will be missed. God protect you Jake and Valhalla Brother.

Brigid Hart
1 month ago

What a beautiful tribute to such an impressive man. Our condolences. Kevin and Brigid Hart

Jeremy ackerson
1 month ago

I served with Jake for 22 months on the Iraq deployment. I have never met an officer in my 12 years who was as level headed as him. He was just a salt of the earth kind of man and he was so easy to follow. Everything seemed so simple and straightforward. He embodied everything that is a leader… truly was an honor to know him. I can only imagine the loss that you are all feeling. My prayers and condolences to you all.

Mick and Lisa Korba
1 month ago

Our thoughts and prayers to Jake’s family. Such an inspiring life that was cut too short.

John Zillhardt
1 month ago

I served with Jake in the 34th Infantry (Red Bull) Division from 2013-2016 and counted him a friend. When he came to my civilian employer, Medica, on 5/26/2022 as the guest speaker during our flag raising ceremony it was a happy surprise and we had lunch together after. That is the last time I saw him and this sad news hits hard. We need more leaders like Jake and I will miss him.

Andy Schmidt
1 month ago

Sorry for your loss. He was a good guy I’m proud to have served with him

James Helgestad
1 month ago

Jacob, my son, my deer hunting partner, you will be missed by every one. I know you are watching over us, rest in peace. Dad

1 month ago

I knew Jake when he was high school and playing hockey. Some of the team included Eric F,Patrick G and Joe S. As parents we cheered them on to win most of their games. We knew at that time that Jake was destined to be a born leader!!

Corbin Dantzscher
1 month ago

I had the pleasure of serving with Jake in Kuwait on the 2020 deployment. He was probably my favorite Battalion commander I had. He was an excellent leader and mentor. My prayers go out to the Helgestad family

Alan Evenson
1 month ago

Jake was a great man. I’m proud to have known him. He will be deeply missed.

Jeff Kierzek
1 month ago

Thanks for giving us some insight into all Jake was able to accomplish in his short time here. It’s been a long time since he was covering my back as a goalie in youth hockey. I knew he continued to protect me from afar, but wasn’t aware of all his accomplishments. I’m sorry for your loss, it’s very sad to see such a great guy leave so soon.

Laurie Maros
1 month ago

Beautiful tribute Jake was an amazing man and hero.

1 month ago

Sorry for your loss and praying for you and your family. Jake was one of the good ones and will be missed by many!

1 month ago

You, Lucy, Sam, and all of Jake’s family are in our prayers. Tom and I never had the pleasure of meeting Jake, but feel as if we know him through your magnificent writing – truly a life well-lived!
We are thankful that he is no longer in pain, and pray that our Heavenly Father brings you comfort and peace.

Michelle Lins
1 month ago

Beautiful life story and written tribute! Our thoughts and prayers are will his earthly family.

Jeanne Mahoney O’Neill
1 month ago

I didn’t personally know Jake, but I’m a friend of his sister Nekaya. Siblings often have the same traits so I’m sure he was a wonderful giving person like his sister. I’m sorry I didn’t have the chance to meet him and thank him for his service to his country.

Pat Goggins
1 month ago

Karry, Lucy and Sam–I am so sorry for your loss. Jake was a great man.

Barb Dettwiler
1 month ago

Karry, this was such a beautiful tribute to an amazing person. Heaven gained another amazing soul. I bet all of the family already in heaven greeted Jacob when he arrived

Pauline Helgestad
1 month ago

Yes, Karry, you are an author!!

Molly Schultz
1 month ago

Karry- you are a brillant writer. This was a loving and accurate picture of Jake.

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