Touring Quilt Honors Lost Heroes, Including Pearl City Man
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The “Lost Heroes Art Quilt,” which features pictures of military personnel from all 50 states who died in Iran and Afghanistan, was recently on display in Hawaii.
Among the faces on the 5 1/2-by-15-foot quilt is Pearl City man Kyle Ka’eo Fernandez, an Army corporal based out of Schofield Barracks who was killed in 2004 at the age of 26 in Afghanistan when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee.
“As a father there are mixed emotions,” said Renald Fernandez, “because I’m proud Ka’eo was selected and he’s there to represent all the fallen soldiers from the state ... but that’s my son, and we miss him terribly. I know that he’s part of a bigger picture when it comes to (the quilt), and as a father, I’m very proud.”
Fernandez remembers his son as “a typical local boy” who made friends easily, liked going to the beach, liked sports and played football for Aiea High.
He was responsible and when he had a job, he would “always go early, stay late.” When he decided to leave his job at Thrifty car rental to join the Army in 2000, his dad, an Air Force man, was surprised.
“Ka’eo said, ‘Dad, I want to be a soldier,’” remembered Fernandez of his son, who enjoyed army flicks and playing with GI Joe toys as a youngster. “He said, ‘I want to be infantry. I want to do the fighting. I want to be on the front line.’ He would always volunteer. He would always want to be the first one. If nobody wanted to try it, he did.”
Even when his older sister and younger brother were still “hugging the pillow” in the morning, Ka’eo would jump up, ready to greet the day.
“He was such a wonderful child,” said Fernandez.
It’s a picture of Ka’eo as a child that graces the quilt, his little-boy face peeking up from a soldier’s jacket. Surrounding the picture are words of tribute from family.
The project took artist Julie Feingold two years to research and piece together, and it has been traveling the nation since its completion in September of 2009. When the artwork arrived in Hawaii last month, it received a grand reception at the state Capitol before being placed on display for one week at the Hale Koa hotel.
A keepsake book accompanies the quilt, with pictures of the Lost Heroes and memories from their families. All of the profit from sales of the book goes to Snowball Express, an organization that aids children of fallen servicemembers.
Ka’eo left behind a wife and two children - a daughter and son who respectively turn 10 and 7 this month.
“When we heard about the project, we were happy to leave some kind of legacy for the children,” said Fernandez, “but we didn’t know it was going to turn into something this big that’s crossing the country and stirring up a lot of emotional feelings for a lot of people.”
When the quilt is done touring in 2011, Fernandez says it will be auctioned off to a museum, a moment of historical importance and “a true legacy to Ka’eo.”
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