Relatively speaking, Airman 1st Class Jacob Ramsey wasn't particularly in harm's way.


His father, Bill, has been an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department for 19 years. Jacob's older brother Isaac is serving with the United States Army in Mosul, Iraq.


By contrast, Jacob's job with the United States Air Force -- presenting aerial and satellite imagery to the army -- was a relatively safe one. But it wasn't without risk: On April 10, the 20 year old Hesperia High School graduate died in Kabul of "wounds suffered from a non-combat related incident," according to the Department of Defense. (An investigation into the exact circumstances surrounding his death is still continuing.)


"He was working at the John's Incredible Pizza," said Bill Ramsey, of Jacob's job. "He wanted to do something different. This wasn't a career."


And one day, he came home and announced what his career would be: He was enlisting in the air force.


"He just came home one day talking about it," Bill said. "He wanted to do something important."


His father had served in Vietnam and initially teased his son about his choice before coming around to see Jacob's point of view.


"I was in the Marine Corps," Bill said. "Those are the first ones to go in, then the Army comes in and cleans up and the air force just takes pictures from the sky."


But those pictures have value.


"It takes a special person to be in the background," Bill said. "When I was 17, I wanted action. That's why I joined the marines. But someone has to do the support and put the pictures on the wall for the generals" to make their strategic decisions.


Even before he left home, Ramsey was a disciplined man.


"If you pulled open his drawer when he was in high school, he's have his t-shirts all lined up and his underwear lined up," said Bill. "The military wasn't nothing to him."


"He was a neat freak," said Ramsey's twin sister Bethany. "He didn't mind taking orders."


Harder was leaving behind his parents -- who, even after their divorce, lived next door to each other, to keep the family together -- two brothers and twin sister.


"It was tough being away from his natural habitat," said Bethany.


While his brother Isaac had always been the Ramsey to whom schoolwork came easily, Jacob succeeded through hard work, which served him well when the air force sent him to technical school to become a communications specialist.


"He had to start from scratch," said Bill. "The other guys had some college under their belts."


Ramsey died, say his family members, believing in his mission. He'd had his doubts along the way -- in 2008, he had talked about leaving the air force and joining the Army Rangers, after rubbing shoulders with soldiers while based at Fort Hood in Texas. But fellow members of the 712th Air Support Operations Squadron convinced him of the  importance of his mission, and when he was deployed to Afghanistan in March, it was with a belief that he was going to help save lives and help bring peace to the country.


"He was really excited to go to Afghanistan," said Bill. "He was raring to go."


The letter written to the family by his commanding officer described Ramsey as a quiet man who warmed up into a prankster, but still had an eye for detail that helped him find inefficiencies in the system and improve the methods the air force and army use to share information.


"He didn't worry about the danger," said Bethany. "He was excited about going to a different country ... it fascinated him."


Jacob Ramsey will be with his father and siblings forever: Bill and Jacob's younger brother Joseph pull up their sleeves, and there on their right biceps is Jacob's name, dates of birth and death, and "Kabul, Afghanistan," tattooed into their flesh, just as it is on the bicep of Isaac Ramsey, 7,000 miles away. Bethany will be getting Jacob's face tattooed on her left shoulder blade, along with a poem she's writing.


"I guess it's starting to become like Vietnam," said Bill Ramsey of his son. "There will still be young men willing to go, even after [the war] becomes unpopular." When Jacob Ramsey enlisted in 2006, "the hype was over.


"Somebody has to do it."


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.