Remembering Military Fallen

Army 1st Lt.. Jonathan Brostrom, KIA July 2008 in Afghanistan
Army 1st Lt.. Jonathan Brostrom, KIA July 2008 in Afghanistan
David Brostrom's son died in Afghanistan.
David Brostrom's son died in Afghanistan.
Lis Olsen, Manager of Army's Survivor Outreach Services (SOS)
Lis Olsen, Manager of Army's Survivor Outreach Services (SOS)
Maui's Kraig Vickers among deadly chopper crash Aug. 6, 2011 in Afghanistan
Maui's Kraig Vickers among deadly chopper crash Aug. 6, 2011 in Afghanistan

Written by Ramsay Wharton

FORT SHAFTER- (HawaiiNewsNow)  As of September 8, 2011, the Defense Department cites 6,210 U.S. service members who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since the attacks of 9-11.

6,210 Military Deaths in Iraq & Afghanistan
(Source: New York Times)

Nearly 4,500 were killed in Iraq alone, with more than 32,000 wounded there.

IRAQ: 4,466 Dead, 32,189 Wounded*
(Source: New York Times) * Defense Manpower Data Center

We have lost just over 1,700 heroes in Afghanistan with more than 13,000 injured.

AFGHANISTAN: 1,744 Dead, 13,700 Wounded* 
(Source: New York Times) * Defense Manpower Data Center

And when you break it all down, an estimated more than 300 service members had ties to Hawaii, either stationed here, or grew up in the islands.

Hawaii Ties: > 200 Soldiers, > 100 Marines & Sailors, 2 Airmen (>30 with Hawaii residency)
(Estimated from local media reports, legislative and military sources.)

Among the Hawaii heroes is Damien High School and UH graduate, Army Airborne 1st Lieutenant, Jonathan Brostrom.

When asked how his Dad feels when he visits the Jonathan Brostrom Community Center at Fort Shafter, and see his son's name there, retired Army Colonel, David Brostrom replied, "We feel very proud and honored that they dedicated this place to my son."

Not a day goes by that Col. Brostrom doesn't think about his son, Jon. The 24 year old soldier died three years ago in Afghanistan along with nine others who were killed during an attack on their outpost in Wanat by 200 Taliban insurgents.

"For me it's just like I lost my son yesterday, for both me and my wife," said Brostrom's father. "We're going to counseling. It helps, but it's going to take a long time. We deal with it on a daily basis and some days are harder than others."

Visiting the Brostrom Community Center helps him heal, as does wearing his Gold Star pin on his lapel that's given to families of the fallen, and a black bracelet of "remembrance" listing Jon's name, rank and where he died. Brostrom never takes it off.

In speaking of the bracelet, Brostrom said, "I shake their hand. Some people are uncomfortable with it. They don't want to talk about it, but if they do, I'm more than willing to talk about my son and what happened that day."

July 13, 2008, the day that 1st Lt. Brostrom died, was the single deadliest attack we'd seen since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan. But that has since been overshadowed by recent August 6, 2011 events when an Army Chinook helicopter was shot down, killing 20 Americans, including one of Maui's own.

Thirty-six year old Navy Senior Chief, Kraig Vickers is the most recent Hawaii hero laid to rest just over a week ago. The bomb disposal specialist and four other sailors were attached to the famed SEAL Team Six, who lost 17 men onboard that day. Three Air Force Special Forces and five Army soldiers who were operating the chopper, also died in the crash.

"We all have one thing in common. We all lost someone we love dearly," said Lis Olsen.

Olsen lost her 28-year old soldier son, Toby, to a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2007. The army wife, now helps others heal. She runs SOS, the Army's Survivor Outreach Services' office which opened last year at Fort Shafter.

"This is where I belong. This is where I continue to serve families and channel my grief," said Olsen.

Brostrom and other families and children of fallen soldiers find comfort there. Even "battle buddies", the Army term for fellow soldiers on the battlefield, can get counseling, support services and engage in healing activities like talking about photos that survivors put into scrapbooks to help them keep the memory of their loved ones alive.

Only a reportedly, one percent of the nation's population is serving in the U.S. military. Brostrom lamented that sometimes people forget about the sacrifice they make to protect our country.

"I still remember when the Twin Towers were struck. My son's were both in high school and that motivated them to go into the military," said Brostrom.

"So just don't forget us," he urged. "Because, they are the greatest generation - these kids fighting this war."


For more information on the Army's Survivor Outreach Services at Fort Shafter:

Other Links from SOS:

Tragedy Assistance for Survivors (TAPS):

Army OneSource:

Military OneSource: