A U.S. Army officer killed this week in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan was a former Las Vegas resident and graduate of Rancho High School.
Kirk Takeshi Fuchigami, 25, was killed in action Wednesday in a helicopter crash in the Logar Province of Afghanistan.
The Department of Defense announced Thursday that Fuchigami and 33-year-old David Knadle of Tarrant, Texas, both of whom were chief warrant officer 2s, died on Nov. 20 in an incident that’s still under investigation. Fuchigami and Knadle were providing security for troops on the ground when their helicopter crashed, it said.
“We are saddened by the tragic loss of two great heroes. Their service to the nation has helped to increase the professionalism within our ranks and their sacrifices will not go unnoticed,” a Facebook statement from the U.S. Army said.
Rancho High Principal James Kuzma sent a note to staff on Friday informing them of Fuchigami’s death.
“Sadly, I received the news this morning that Kirk Fuchigami, a Rancho grad from 2012, was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. He had been piloting a troop support mission in an Apache when it crashed,” Kuzma’s statement said.
Fuchigami was a a member of Rancho’s JROTC and in the Aviation magnet program, according to Kuzma. He had been assigned to 1st Calvary Division in Fort Hood, Texas.
He was also active in Henderson Aikido and Yoga, according to founder Arlene Mandibles, who described him as a wonderful person and a hard worker who “always helped with an open heart.” Fuchigami earned the studio’s first-ever black belt in Aikido in 2013 after joining the studio in 2010, Mandibles said.
“Henderson Aikido will continue to honor him and his family by continuing to share his spirit on the mat and off,” a tribute from the studio said.
A memorial fund has been set up to benefit his wife of 8 months, McKenzie Fuchigami, as well as support loved ones traveling long distances to attend Fuchigami’s funeral. Fuchigami’s mother lives in Las Vegas, while other family members reside in Hawaii, according to sister-in-law and memorial fund organizer Melissa Norman.
Members of the Hawaii State Senate delegation also paid tribute to Fuchigami, whose hometown is listed as Keaau, Hawaii.
“It is never easy when it’s a soldier from our island home. He served our country with honor and distinction,” a statement from the delegation posted on Facebook said. “His passing is a daily reminder of the men and women who bravely serve in our armed forces to safeguard our freedoms.”