About a month before being deployed to Iraq, Army Specialist Jacob J. Fairbanks, 22, of St. Paul, updated a MySpace page profile that revealed a dry sense of humor -- and some uneasiness about the future.
What did he want to be when he grew up? A Toys `R' Us kid, he wrote.
Fairbanks added, too, that his goal for the year was to "stay alive," and in answer to a question about which country he'd "most like to visit," he typed: "not iraq."
On Wednesday, Fairbanks, a 2004 graduate of Johnson High School who was on his second tour of duty in Iraq, died in Baghdad of "injuries suffered in a non-combat-related incident," according to
a Department of Defense news release.
The incident was under investigation, the release said, and no additional details were available Friday, added an Army spokeswoman in Fort Campbell, Ky., where Fairbanks had been stationed since 2005.
In a statement issued Friday through the Minnesota National Guard, family members said Fairbanks was a "proud member" of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. At Johnson, they added, he participated in the Air Force Junior ROTC and in wrestling and tennis. Beyond that, family members asked not to be contacted by the media.
Col. Earl Juskowiak, senior aerospace science instructor for the Johnson ROTC program, said Friday that Fairbanks was a "great young man" with a passion for military service. Though the ROTC offers advice on a variety of school and career options, he said, Fairbanks made it clear when he was a high school senior where he was headed.
"This is what I want to do," Juskowiak recalled him saying. "I want to join the military."
"He was a pretty focused young man," Juskowiak said.
He enlisted in 2004
While in Iraq, Fairbanks was a field artilleryman assigned to B Battery, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division. He joined the Army in
December 2004 and was about six months into his second tour in Iraq.
Asked in the MySpace profile -- updated last September -- if he believed in himself, Fairbanks wrote: "always." He was a "proud parent," too.
In response to a question about how he'd want to die, he wrote "in GREATNESS," but appended, "lol," or laughing out loud, to the answer.
Fairbanks is survived by his wife, Dwan, of St. Paul; daughter Kayla, 1; stepchildren Alexander, 11; Katelin, 9; and David, 5; and his parents, Steve Elmwood of Oakdale, and Janette Fairbanks of St. Paul.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
More than 70 people with strong Minnesota ties have died in connection with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.