A Hawaii island man who had recently started a deployment to Afghanistan was one of two U.S. Army aviators killed when their AH-64 Apache attack helicopter crashed Wednesday in Logar province, the Pentagon said today.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kirk T. Fuchigami Jr., 25, an Apache pilot, is from Keaau. Also killed was Chief Warrant Officer 2 David C. Knadle, 33, from Tarrant, Texas.
“Both soldiers died Nov. 20, 2019, in Logar Province, Afghanistan, when their helicopter crashed while providing security for troops on the ground,” the Defense Department said.
Fuchigami had gotten married eight months ago.
“My heart and world is completely shattered to tell you that my husband, Kirk Takeshi Fuchigami Jr., has been called back home. I will be posting a funeral date soon,” said McKenzie Norman Fuchigami on Facebook.
Fuchigami “was and is a strong, courageous soldier and loyal husband,” she said. “Eight months of marriage with him was the best months of my life. He taught me so much about love and respect. I’m blessed to have been loved by him so fiercely.”
The soldiers were assigned to 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas. They deployed to Afghanistan last month, the Army said.
“First Attack is saddened by the tragic loss of Chief Warrant Officer 2 David C. Knadle and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kirk T. Fuchigami Jr,” Lt. Col. Adam Camarano, commander, 1-227th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, said in a statement. “Our heartfelt condolences go to both families and their friends during this difficult time. Chief Warrant Officer 2 Knadle 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.”
Fuchigami entered active duty in May 2017 and following his initial training, he was assigned to 1-227th in October 2018 where he served as an Apache pilot, the Army said.
“Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kirk Fuchigami served our country with courage and distinction. His 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,” U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii said. “We extend our deepest condolences to his wife, family, and friends during this very difficult time. We only hope that they find comfort in knowing that his service exceeded all measures of honor. In life, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Fuchigami was a guardian of liberty. In rest, may he find the peace we all seek.”
Jill Backley Myers posted to Facebook that her daughter went to high school with “Fuchi,” as she knew him.
“I only met him a couple of times but he was such a sweet and considerate young man,” she said.
The soldier’s cousin, Kris Fuchigami, also posted recollections including “all the good memories of us playing in the front yard everyday as kids.”
“I remember when we got older, you guys would come to visit from the mainland and I started giving you ukulele lessons during your visits,” Kris Fuchigami said.
His cousin learned two songs in one week. “It made me so happy to see you with a huge smile on your face playing your newly-discovered joy.”
“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,” Kris Fuchigami wrote.
Fuchigami’s awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Combat Action Badge and Army Aviator Badge.
The Wednesday helicopter crash is under investigation. The Taliban claimed to have shot down the helicopter, but the U.S military dismissed that claim as false.
The crash brought the number of U.S. deaths in Afghanistan this year to 19. There also have been three non-combat deaths this year. More than 2,400 Americans have died in the nearly 18-year war.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.