Colonel Jacob C. Helgestad

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 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 and 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 a.m. at St. Wenceslaus Church with Colonel Buddy Winn officiating.  Visitation will take place Monday, the 27 from 4-7  p.m. 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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