Douglas J. Jeffries Jr. aspired to be a forest firefighter, but joined the… (Army )
Army Pfc. Douglas J. Jeffries Jr. liked to perform — and not just on stage with the alternative rock band he played in during high school.
Known for his sense of humor and fondness for comical stunts, Jeffries once wore an inflatable sumo wrestler costume to Porterville's Wal-Mart, the biggest place in the Tulare County town northeast of Bakersfield, and walked down the aisles strumming his guitar.
"When the batteries went dead, his suit deflated," recounted his father, Douglas Jeffries Sr. "And he continued walking through, playing his guitar."
Another time, Jeffries and his fellow prankster, stepmother Andrea Jeffries — whom he called "Mom" — broke into song and started dancing in the middle of a Rite Aid store on a trip to the desert.
His career of impromptu store appearances started when he was 13 and on a family vacation in Montana. A shop offered a 10% discount to anyone who could sing the national anthem. Jeffries couldn't sing it, but the composition was the first piece he learned to play on his guitar.
"So he brought his guitar and sat down in the middle of the store and played the national anthem in Polson, Montana," his father said. The family got the discount.
"He was always happy-go-lucky. Always tried to put a smile on everybody's face. Loved going to the desert, riding dirt bikes and four-wheeling," his father said.
But Jeffries, who grew up in the tiny Sierra foothill community of Springville in Tulare County, also was disciplined and a hard worker.
During high school, he held jobs helping out at area ranches and at a local hamburger stand. He belonged to the Future Farmers of America at Porterville High School, and his band, called Misconception, played at FFA events.
"He was a leader. He was an organizer of events and leader of the band," said Todd Coons, Jeffries' FFA advisor. "He was a student when he needed to be. Never a slacker and never quit."
Jeffries aspired to be a forest firefighter, but joined the Army in 2009 after graduation because he wanted to serve his country, his family said. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division at Ft. Drum, N.Y.
He was deployed with his unit to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in March. In June, the last time he was home on leave, he became engaged to Tiffany Stanford.
Jeffries, 20, and a fellow infantryman were killed by an improvised explosive device Sept. 8 in southern Afghanistan's Kandahar province, on the Pakistani border.
"He never told anybody — and we didn't find out until after he was killed — that he carried a full-size American flag in his backpack in Afghanistan," his father said.
Jeffries' brother, Joseph Averman, also in the Army, accompanied the body home. Porterville High was closed for Jeffries' funeral, and students lined the streets to watch the funeral procession pass.
Last month, the FFA posthumously awarded him the American FFA Degree, one of the organization's highest honors.
In addition to his father, stepmother and brother, Jeffries is survived by his mother, Evelyn McLeod; and two sisters, Jamie Averman and Jessica Jeffries.