DRAKE

The Columbus Dispatch - - Metro&state - Fair winds and fol­low­ing seas, sailor. hzachariah@dispatch.com @hol­lyzachariah

in West Jef­fer­son that the first per­son he no­ticed was a young 18-year-old Ja­cob Drake. “I thought he looked ter­ri­fied, like, ‘What the hell did I get my­self into?’ I le­git­i­mately felt bad for the kid.”

But every­one who’d ever met Drake — with his thin frame, short stature, goofy smile, kind heart, and love of cats and all things pink — knew he wasn’t to be un­der­es­ti­mated. They knew only of his abil­ity to con­tin­u­ally learn, to push on, to never quit, to never say no.

Raf­ferty quickly saw it, too, back in their ba­sic train­ing class of 2013: “Drake was the one I wanted to make it through the most.”

So it was with heavy hearts that Raf­ferty joined Navy of­fi­cers, en­listed sailors and friends to eu­lo­gize Drake and tell his mourn­ing fam­ily dur­ing a poignant, 40-minute fu­neral Satur­day how much he had meant to them.

Drake, 21 and a 2013 grad­u­ate of Triad High School in Cham­paign County in west-cen­tral Ohio, was one of 10 sailors killed aboard the Sailors ap­proach the Rader-McDon­ald-Tidd Fu­neral Home in West Jef­fer­son, where more than 200 peo­ple at­tended ser­vices for Drake.

Navy’s USS John S. McCain when it col­lided with a mer­chant ship in the South China Sea on Aug. 21. Even as the Navy con­tin­ues to in­ves­ti­gate, those who gath­ered Satur­day tried to put the aw­ful­ness be­hind them.

They came sim­ply to re­mem­ber that scrawny kid who even­tu­ally be­came a suc­cess­ful sailor, an elec­tron­ics tech­ni­cian sec­ond class. They came to re­mem­ber the son, the brother, the fi­ance, the civil­ian co­worker, the best friend.

There was long­time home­town friend Tan­ner Stengel who spoke but a minute yet brought the whole place to

tears.

“Jake knew how to live. He knew how to have fun,” Stengel said. Other friends al­ready had re­called how in high school, they all played “Call of Duty” and “Halo” — video games about mil­i­tary and war — through the night un­til they sim­ply col­lapsed of ex­haus­tion and slept on the base­ment floor. Stengel said they had a name for them­selves: The Nerd Herd.

He couldn’t hold back his tears as he went on: “I speak for all of our bud­dies when I say thank you, Jake. Thank you for be­ing a part of our lives.”

There was best friend Austin Bidwell, who summed up the self­less­ness and joy that was such a part of Drake. He re­called that when one of life’s heart­breaks came, it was Drake he called for help in the mid­dle of the night. With­out hes­i­ta­tion or ques­tion, he came.

“We sat there in the Walmart on the hood of our ve­hi­cles in the park­ing lot at 3 o’clock in the morn­ing and drink­ing Moun­tain Dew. And he wasn’t even mad I woke him up,” Bidwell said. “He lis­tened and was happy. That’s the way he was.”

Then the Navy of­fi­cers shared their own tales.

Divi­sion Chief Josh Wing said he met Drake when the young sailor first came aboard the McCain. He said he was “am­bi­tious, full of spirit and eager to see the world.”

He re­called how Drake al­ways worked out so hard to try and bulk up his lean frame. It never worked. Yet he took all the rib­bing in good fun. “Some­one once put in the sug­ges­tion box that’s read to the whole ship, ‘Feed Drake two meals,” Wing said with a laugh.

Then he choked up. “He’s truly missed,” he said. “It’s a tragedy.”

Lt. Christo­pher Grif­fin, an­other of Drake’s divi­sion chiefs, said Drake of­ten took on re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that were not his own just to ease some­one else’s bur­den. He never seemed down, and he never spoke a dis­parag­ing word.

Then came Re­becca Hol­land, who read a let­ter from her de­ployed hus­band, Bran­don, a fel­low sailor of Drake’s and one of his best friends. Bran­don Hol­land wrote about their “bro­mance,” joked about the match­ing T-shirts he made them wear, and said Drake was a proud and loyal Amer­i­can whom every­one loved.

He signed off with a Navy tra­di­tion:

He told Drake that his ship­mates would take the watch from here.

With that, fol­low­ing the cus­tom of full mil­i­tary hon­ors car­ried out in the park­ing lot of the fu­neral home, a hearse drove away with the body of Petty Of­fi­cer 2nd Class Ja­cob Drake aboard, car­ry­ing him on an ocean of tears from those who loved him and a wave of only melan­choly mem­o­ries left be­hind.

[ERIC AL­BRECHT/DISPATCH PHO­TOS]

Mem­bers of Amer­i­can Le­gion Post 201 and oth­ers pay their re­spects to Petty Of­fi­cer 2nd Class Ja­cob Drake.

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