By DAN FOX
Flags across the state of Alaska were lowered to half-staff in honor of Chief Warrant Officer Two Jacob M. Sims from Oct. 29 through sunset on Nov. 2.
Sims, 36, died on Oct. 27 in Logar Province, Afghanistan, as a result of wounds suffered in a helicopter crash, according to the United States Department of Defense.
Sims, who grew up and attended school in Skagway, was assigned to the U.S. Army’s 4th Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
“He was a really, really good kid,” said Skagway resident Linda Calver, who remembers Sims from his time attending Skagway school. Calver was the librarian at the time. “He was pretty quiet when he was little, but always willing to help if you needed help doing anything.”
The Skagway Borough Assembly released a proclamation on Nov. 2 in honor of Sims, expressing “profound appreciation for his service to Alaska, and the United States.”
At that same Nov. 2 meeting, Mayor Monica Carlson said the plaque in Veterans Park will be replaced to include Sims’ name, as well as other veterans from World War I and World War II not currently inscribed upon it.
Also in Sims’ memory, the Skagway Youth Wrestling Club has renamed its annual tournament after the fallen soldier.
Sims has a legacy as a standout athlete at the Skagway School District.
After Sims placed 15th in the region in cross-country during his sophomore year, he began his junior year by winning the Skagway Invitational, eventually taking fifth in the region meet and earning a bid to State.
His senior year was even better: Sims rocketed to the top five finishes in all of his qualifying meets, and capped off the season with a regional championship – a first by a Skagway runner in two decades.
He was named as the male Athlete of the Year, during his junior and senior years, and was Skagway’s top wrester during both his junior and senior seasons.
“Wrestling, he was a beast,” said Jeff Kasler, who was the athletics director at Skagway School when Sims attended. “They [Jake and his brother Josh Sims] were taught well by their dad. I’m sure if you asked their coach, they would tell you that they were the hardest-working kids in practice, and very competitive.
“He [Jake Sims] was just a fierce competitor, and nobody ever outworked that kid in practice.”
Kasler said he likes to remember the way Sims acted off the mat, particularly with the younger kids from the neighborhood. Sims only lived a few houses away from Kasler and his son. Kasler said he had a basketball hoop on his property; Sims would come over and play ball with Kasler’s son, who was in fifth grade at the time, and other youngsters in town.
“Jake would come over – he was like a junior, senior – he looked like Shaquille O’Neal with these kids,” Kasler said. “He was a foot and a half taller than these kids, and they just had a ball with him, because he would block their shots and he would dunk on them, and kids would be hanging on him just trying to stop him.
“He did it with a smile, and I just remember sitting out either in the lawn watching them play or literally just inside the house, just watching him go with these kids.”