Hawaii service member killed in Afghanistan remembered as gentle, kind

Published: Nov. 22, 2019 at 12:09 PM HST
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KEAAU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Hawaii soldier has been identified as one of two U.S. service members killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.

The Department of Defense said Thursday that Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kirk T. Fuchigami Jr., of Keaau, and another soldier — identified as Chief Warrant Officer 2 David C. Knadle — were killed on Wednesday in Logar Province.

They were providing security for troops on the ground, officials said.

The Taliban claimed to have shot down the helicopter, but the U.S. military said that was untrue. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

According to the U.S. military, Fuchigami, 25, entered active duty in May 2017.

Loved ones ― too heartbroken to speak by phone ― described Fuchigami as kind, brilliant, and a jack of all trades who knew how to do everything from fix a car to play ukulele.

The young man just got married eight months ago. And on Facebook, his wife wrote that being married to him were the best months of her life.

“He taught me so much about love and respect," said McKenzie Norman Fuchigami.

She described him as a “strong, courageous soldier and a loyal husband.”

My heart and world is completely shattered to tell you that my husband, Kirk Takeshi Fuchigami Jr. has been called back...

Posted by McKenzie Norman Fuchigami on Thursday, November 21, 2019

Fuchigami’s cousin, Ashley Simpson, said the soldier was “rooted in his faith and family.”

“Takeshi leaves behind a legacy of faith, love, and service,” she said. “We pray that his loved ones can be comforted at this difficult time.”

One of his other cousins is Hawaii ukulele artist Kris Fuchigami. The musician posted a tribute on Facebook, saying the two used to play every day when they were younger — one of the best times of his life.

When Kirk moved to the mainland, Kris said he would teach him how to play the ukulele when he would come back home, and in one week’s time, he would be able to play two songs on stage perfectly.

“It made me so happy to see you with a huge smile on your face playing your newly discovered joy,” Kris Fuchigami wrote on Facebook.

“I love you Takeshi and still can’t believe any of this. But I know you are in a better place. Rest in peace cousin.”

In October 2018, Fuchigami was assigned to 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division in Fort Hood, Texas, where he served as an Apache helicopter pilot.

Fuchigami’s awards and decorations included the Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal, and National Defense Service Medal.

Both soldiers killed in the helicopter crash had deployed to Afghanistan just last month.

Lt. Col. Adam Camarano, commander of the 1-227th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, issued a statement offering his condolences to the soldiers’ families and friends.

“Chief Warrant Officer 2 Knadel and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Fuchigami will always be remembered as a part of the heroic legacy of the 1st Cavalry Division, forged by the sacrifices of brave Cavalry Troopers who have laid down their lives in defense of freedom," Camarano said.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, added that Fuchigami’s death "is a loss that will be felt across the Big Island and the state of Hawaii, and as a nation, we will always remember his sacrifice.”

“We extend our deepest condolences to his wife, family, and friends during this very difficult time,” Schatz said, in a statement.

"We only hope that they find comfort in knowing that his service exceeded all measures of honor. In life, Chief Warrant Officer Two Fuchigami was a guardian of liberty. In rest, may he find the peace we all seek.”

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