Kraig Vickers, a 1992 graduate of Maui High School and a Maui Interscholastic League defensive football player of the year, was among 30 Americans who died in a U.S. military helicopter shot down during fighting in Afghanistan, his father, Robert Vickers, confirmed by telephone Saturday night.
Kraig Vickers, 36, was a Navy Bomb Disposal Team member, said his father, who could barely speak of his loss.
Mr. Vickers said he and his wife, Mary, were extremely proud of their son and his 15-year military career.
"He would have turned 37 on August 11th," Robert Vickers said, before asking that further questions be submitted by email.
The 30 Americans, most belonging to the elite Navy SEALS unit that killed Osama bin Laden, died with seven Afghan commandos.
Kraig Vickers lived in Virginia Beach, Va., with his wife, Nani, who was pregnant, and their three children, said his friend from childhood Michael Labuanan, who learned about his death from Vance Vickers, Kraig's brother. He added that the Vickers were expecting to be stationed on Oahu next year.
They met at Kalama Intermediate School and hit it off, Labuanan said. They would wrestle and play football together; they were in one another's wedding parties. Through the years, the friends stayed in touch and would get together when Vickers returned to Maui for vacation.
"I gravitated towards Kraig because of his easygoing personality and the drive to become the best person that he could be," said Labuanan in an email.
"He was a genuine person with Christian values . . . He should be remembered as someone that would always put his family first."
As an explosive ordnance disposal specialist, "he was not afraid of many things and would always do things that most people wouldn't do," Labuanan said.
"We shall all remember Kraig as a kind and loving family man that would do anything for anyone before he would do it for himself," he said.
His Maui High School football coach, Curtis Lee, remembers a similar man.
"He played middle linebacker, so he was really smart, the quarterback of the defense; and when he put on his helmet, no one could match his intensity and aggressiveness," Lee said. "But once he walked off that field, you couldn't find a nicer, more respectful kid."
He was funny, mellow and kind, Lee said.
Kraig Vickers helped lead the Sabers to MIL and Neighbor Islands championships, Lee said.
The retired coach said Kraig Vickers was such a great kid with real promise in large part because of his excellent and supportive family, with three brothers who also played football for Lee and a sister who was his statistician. They also wrestled for their father, Robert "Bob" Vickers, who was Maui High's wrestling coach.
In recent years, Lee said he still sees the Vickers family occasionally, and they always say hello and are friendly. The kids were all raised "with high Christian values," Lee said.
"He was just one of those kids who was well liked by everyone, other students, the teachers, the administration," Lee said. "He wasn't one of those bullies. In fact, it was the opposite. He was a real leader. If someone was out of line and picking on someone, Kraig would step in and set them straight."
Lee said Vickers was the product of his parents' skill in rearing him and his siblings.
His other brothers are Robert Jr., a coach at Kamehameha Schools Maui high school; Mark, a Maui police officer; and Vance. His sister is Michelle. They all still live on Maui..
Lee said the news of Kraig Vickers' death had spread quickly, with parents of former players and cheerleaders spreading the word, which was announced by one of his Maui friends on Facebook.
"The war's been going on for a while, and it never hit home like this before," Lee said. "People die in wars, yes. And then this happens, and it brings it all home. What a great loss."
* Chris Hamilton can be reached at email@example.com. News Editor Lee Imada contributed to this story.