By Stephen Dick
Eugene D.M. Kanakaole was only in Iraq for a month when he was found dead June 11. According to his mother, Kristine Rene Blades, who lived for a time in Anderson, the cause of death was a single gun shot wound to the head. The Department of Defense is calling the death “non-combat.”
“I don’t believe my son killed himself,” Blades said.
Kanakaole, 19, was part of the 87th Engineer Company, 8th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade from Fort Hood, Texas.
She added that the Department of Defense is investigating her son’s death. “I don’t want it swept under the rug,” she said.
The day after Kanakaole died, Blades said she received a visit from her other son, David, his father and an uncle who told her of Eugene’s death. Her reaction to the news “was not good.”
David, she said, is a Marine who hasn’t been sent to Iraq, but she wonders if he will go.
Blades, who goes by Rene, lives in Honolulu, Hawaii, where she manages a Shell station. She hadn’t seen Eugene since he was little. There were problems for Blades, she said, when Eugene was born and, as a result, he moved around to different foster homes.
Though born in Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, Kanakaole spent most his early years on the island of Maui where he graduated from Maui High School in 2007. While in high school, according to the Honolulu Advertiser, he played football and was on the track team. He started out pole vaulting and switched to shot put, according to his mother.
The Advertiser wrote that three soldiers from Maui have died in Iraq.
“He had a hard life,” Blades sighed. She had no contact with him, but when he turned 18, she heard from him and he said they’d get together. Before she knew it, though, he was in the Army and gone, and she never got to see him.
Blades, 44, said a girlfriend was able to access Kanakaole’s MySpace page.
“He was so proud of being in the Army,” Blades said. “I’ll do whatever I can to find out what happened.”
Kanakaole’s sister, Charissa, told KITV, an ABC affiliate in Honolulu, “(Eugene) was very proud of serving in the Army — serving his country. He was very quiet, but he seemed very strong, quiet, but strong,” she said.
Charissa, who spent five years in the Air Force, told the TV station that she received news of Kanakaole’s death on his MySpace page.
Son had ‘hard life’ growing up in Hawaii
By Stephen Dick
Blades’ father, William Blades, lives in Anderson. He said he has been talking to his daughter off and on since Eugene’s death.
William Blades was born and raised in Anderson. He left for the Army after graduation in 1959 and met his wife, Maxine, who was from Hawaii, in Fort Monmouth, N.J. After the Army the couple ended up in Anderson where William took a job with General Motors. “I couldn’t cut it,” he said.
In 1968, they headed to Hawaii and he worked for 20 years as a Honolulu police officer. He moved back to Anderson in 1998 to care for his ailing mother. He and Maxine divorced. Their kids, including Rene, stayed in Hawaii.
Rene Blades said she hasn’t been back to Anderson since 1976.
William Blades said he probably won’t be going to Hawaii for the funeral, which is pending. Rene said Eugene’s body has been flown back to the Dover, Del., Air Base where all who die on active duty are taken.
Terry Barquez, Rene’s sister, lives in Newman, Calif., and remembers Eugene when he was very young.
“I knew him as a baby,” she said. She and Rene used to be close, but Terry has lived in Newman for 15 years and hasn’t been back to Hawaii in five years.
“He was finally getting on his own,” Barquez said of Eugene. “It’s sad to find out he died so young and so early.”
She knows Rene wants to find out what happened.
“My sister wants closure.”
“No one knows how he died,” said Rene. “My concern is how my son died. My concern is what is going on over there.”