Update 6:30 p.m.: A Big Island man has been identified as one of two U.S. service members killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. Chief Warrant Officer Kirk Takeshi Fuchigami Jr. died in Logar Province while providing security for troops on the ground.
25-year-old Fuchigami loved his wife, family and friends, and his country. Thursday night in Delaware, President Trump and the First Lady met with the families of the fallen soldiers at Dover Air Force.
Officials say Fuchigami entered active duty in May 2017, was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, and served as an Apache Helicopter pilot. He was passionate about his job and was recognized with awards, but the news that his helicopter crashed devastated loved ones.
“Like is this really happening? Like it was a sad day but he was a great guy and it just comes with the service of being a soldier. There is some risk but it was devastating and shocking that that happened to him,” said Fuchigami’s sister-in-law Melissa Norman.
Tanner Nelson lived in Henderson, Nevada during his high school years where he became good friends with Fuchigami. He said Fuchigami had a vibrant personality and was ambitious.
“Ever since I’ve known him, he wanted to be a pilot and specifically for an Apache helicopter. He loved Apaches so he would talk about when I’m older I’m going to fly all these things,” said Nelson.
Nelson tells us Fuchigami was also proud to be from Hawaii.
“I think you would be hard-pressed to find a picture of him anywhere where he’s not smiling and doing this (throws shaka). He’s just happy all the time,” said Nelson.
On social media, Fuchigami’s wife McKenzie said the eight months of marriage with him were the best months of her life. She shared that he was a strong, courageous solider and loyal husband.
“He was just a great guy. He died doing what he loved and he was very patriotic to the U.S. and I know he was a determined soldier,” said Norman.
A Hawaii Island man has been identified as one of two U.S. Service Members killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
The defense department says, Kirk T. Fuchigami Jr. died when his helicopter crashed while providing security for troops on the ground in Eastern Afghanistan.
The 25-year-old Fuchigami and the the second victim, Chief Warrant Officer David Knadle from Texas, were assigned to a unit from Fort Hood.
Wednesday’s crash is still under investigation.
The Taliban claimed to have shot down the helicopter, but the U.S. military has dismissed that claim as false.