Saturday, August 06, 2011

Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Senior Chief Petty Officer (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist) Kraig M. Vickers

Remember Our Heroes

Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Senior Chief Petty Officer (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist) Kraig M. Vickers, 36, of Kokomo, Hawaii

Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Senior Chief Petty Officer (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist) Vickers was assigned to an East Coast-based SEAL team; died Aug. 6, 2011 in Wardak province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when the CH-47 Chinook helicopter in which he was riding was shot down.

36-year-old Kraig Vickers was a bomb disposal team member from Maui, Hawaii. He leaves behind a wife, three children, and another on the way.

Kraig Vickers lived in Virginia Beach, Va., with his wife, Nani, who was pregnant, and their three children, his friend from childhood, Michael Labuanan, told the Maui News.

“I gravitated towards Kraig because of his easygoing personality and the drive to become the best person that he could be,” Labuanan wrote in an email to the newspaper.

In a statement, Rep. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, extended her “gratitude to Kraig Vickers for his loyal service to our country.”

“We honor and remember the 30 American service members who gave their lives in Afghanistan. This tragic event is a stark reminder of the supreme sacrifices the women and men of the U.S. military make in serving our country,” the statement said.

Vickers completed Explosive Ordinance training at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., in 1998. He served on Explosive Ordinance Disposal Mobile Unit 5, Hagatna, Guam, from November 1998 to July 2001. Other assignments included serving in Naval Expeditionary Combat Force Command, Bahrain, from August 2001 to August 2002; and Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit 3, Barbers Point, Hawaii, from August 2002 to February 2005. He joined his East Coast-based special warfare unit in February 2005.

His decorations include three Bronze Stars with ‘V’ for valor; Purple Heart; Joint Service Commendation Medal with Combat ‘V’; Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal; three Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals; two Combat Action Ribbons; three Presidential Unit Citations; Navy Unit Commendation; four Navy Good Conduct Medals; Navy Expeditionary Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal; Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Humanitarian Service Medal; Sea Service Ribbon; Navy and Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon; Navy Expert Rifleman Medal and Navy Expert Pistol Shot Medal.


It came as no surprise to friends and coaches that Maui native Kraig Vickers had taken on a job that was dangerous and deadly.

The 36-year-old, who was a standout in football and wrestling at Maui High School, was among 30 Americans who died after a U.S. military helicopter was shot down Saturday by insurgents during fighting in eastern Afghanistan. Vickers, a 1992 Maui High School graduate, was a Navy explosive ordnance disposal specialist attached to a Navy SEAL team unit, family said.

"He was a fearless young man. His career doesn't really surprise me," said Lindsay Ball, Vickers' former wrestling coach who also taught at Maui High.

Ball, now one of Maui's Department of Education complex area superintendents, said Vickers had a "toughness" in his work ethic and physical strength that no one could teach.

"He wasn't afraid of physical challenges," Ball said, adding that Vickers never complained.

"He's exactly the type of young man you want representing us in time of war. He was an honorable, polite, fearless, tough guy. I'm honored that he did represent us," Ball said.

On Sunday, Vickers' coaches, friends and family continued to mourn his loss. Friends said he lived in Virginia Beach, Va., with his wife, Nani, who was pregnant, and several children.

Vickers' father, Robert, said Sunday that he did meet with military personnel Saturday night regarding his son. Mr. Vickers said he would like to bring his son home but details still needed to be worked out.

Robert Vickers said his son was attached to a Navy SEAL team unit but his son was not part of the unit.

Mr. Vickers and his wife, Mary, did not want to say more and were working on a more detailed email response to The Maui News on Sunday afternoon.

Most of those who died in the incident were from the same unit that killed Osama bin Laden, although none of the men had taken part in that mission.

On Sunday, U.S. officials said that the service members were rushing to help Army Rangers who had come under fire. Thirty Americans and eight Afghans were killed in the crash, making it the deadliest single loss for U.S. forces in the decade-long war in Afghanistan.

U.S Rep. Mazie K. Hirono, whose district includes Maui County, said in an emailed statement that Vickers, who served the country for the past 15 years, leaves behind many family and friends who describe him as fearless, intelligent and yet easygoing.
"I extend my gratitude to Kraig Vickers for his loyal service to our country and express my deepest condolences to the Vickers ohana," she wrote.

Friend and former Maui High School football teammate Richard Cua said: "My heart goes out to his family, and they are in our prayers, all of them. To lose a son or brother, that's awful."

"Those guys are over there (and) we can enjoy what we are doing. And those guys are out there serving the country so we can get what we have. We take it for granted, until one of our own is taken."

"To Kraig, that's my friend and my brother. Back in the day, we was all tight," said Cua, remembering football summer camps with Vickers.

"I just wish the war would end . . . so these guys' families don't have to deal with the loss. These guys are sacrificing a lot for us," said Cua, who is a year younger than Vickers.

Cua reminisced about the good times and can still remember when the Maui High football team he and Vickers were on took the Maui Interscholastic League Championship and the Neighbor Island title in 1991.

Cua and Vickers also were on the MIL all-star team.

Cua said he had that all-star clipping from The Maui News on his wall years after graduating from high school in 1993.

"I used to have to look at Kraig every day when I wake up," Cua said. Cua said he ran into Vickers when Vickers came back to Maui to visit, as Cua used to be a porter at the Kahului Airport.

High school classmate and friend Sindylu Medeiros remembers a softer side of Vickers.
"He was very thoughtful, very kind, very respectful," she said.

Medeiros (at that time Sindylu Hamamoto) said sometimes people would mistake Vickers' kindness for weakness, but the latter wasn't the case.

"He was an all around good person," the former cheerleader said.

He would open the door for girls and would offer the last seat anywhere to someone else.

"He was that kind of person," she said.

Medeiros also remembers that Vickers was smart.

"He let me copy off of his homework," she said. "He helped me get my assignments completed."

Ball said he's been a friend of the Vickers family for a long time.

"It's sad for the family. He's got an awesome family," Ball said.

Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Senior Chief Petty Officer (Expeditionary Warfare Specialist/Freefall Parachutist) Kraig M. Vickers was killed in action on 8/6/11.

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