WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 27: Flags encircling the Washington Monument fly at half staff a day after the death of U.S. service members in an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 27, 2021, in Washington, DC. The death toll from the suicide bombing in Kabul currently stands at 170, including 13 U.S. servicemen and dozens of Afghans. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
The Department of Defense on Saturday identified all 13 U.S. service members who were killed in a suicide bomb attack Thursday outside the Kabul airport, most of whom were Marines in their early 20s who gave their lives while helping American citizens and allies evacuate Afghanistan.
Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, a 20-year-old Marine from Wyoming who “wanted to help people” and often stood up for classmates who were bullied, his father Mark Gordon told The New York Times, had been guarding a checkpoint when the explosion happened, leaving behind a wife and a baby expected to be born in September.
Another 20-year-old Marine from Missouri, Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, graduated high school in 2019 before joining the Marines, something he “always wanted to do,” his father, Mark Schmitz, told radio station KMOX, saying he’d never seen anyone “train as hard as he did to be the best soldier he could be.”
Cpl. Hunter Lopez, a 22-year-old California Marine and the son of two Riverside County sheriff’s deputies, was a Riverside sheriff’s explorer scout for three years and planned to join the force after deployment, the Riverside Sheriff’s Association told the TV station KTLA, saying Hunter “chose to follow a life of service, selflessness, courage and sacrifice, like his parents.”
Lance Cpl. David Espinoza, a 20-year-old Marine from Texas who graduated from Lyndon B. Johnson High School in 2019, “embodied the values, the grit and the dedication” of a U.S. military service member, Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar told the Washington Post.
Another California Marine, Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, who joined the ROTC and graduated high school in 2019 before enlisting, was identified by his hometown, Norco, in a Facebook post as one of the soldiers killed in action, and the city says his name will be added to its memorial for fallen soldiers.
The only sailor killed in the attack, Max Soviak, a 22-year-old Ohio Navy hospital corpsman, was paid tribute by his former high school, which said Soviak was a good student and “full of life” on social media, and by his sister Marilyn Soviak, who wrote on Instagram, “my beautiful, intelligent, beat-to-the-sound of his own drum, annoying, charming baby brother was killed yesterday helping to save lives … and my family will never be the same.”
Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, a 23-year-old Special Forces soldier from Tennessee with the 8th Psychological Operations Group, was the only Army fatality in the bombing — he was looking forward to returning to the U.S. with the intention of moving to Washington, D.C., according to WVTD-TV, and is survived by his wife.
Marine Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, a 31-year-old from Salt Lake City, was the oldest U.S. service member killed, having served with the Marines for 11 years, while he also served as best friend to his two sisters and had a girlfriend in California, his father told The Associated Press.
Marine Sgt. Nicole Gee, who was 23 years old and from Sacramento, California, had posted a photo of herself on Instagram just days before her death declaring, “I love my job.”
Marine Cpl. Daegan Page, 23, played hockey and was a longtime Boy Scout in Omaha, Nebraska, a place his family said he was “always looked forward to coming home and hanging out.”
Humberto Sanchez, a 22-year-old Marine Corps corporal, was a 2017 graduate of Logansport High School in Logansport, Indiana, Mayor Chris Martin said in a statement, saying: “This young man had not yet even turned 30 and still had his entire life ahead of him.”
Marine Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola, of Rancho Cucamonga, California, was a graduate of Los Osos High School, where students honored the 20-year-old during Friday night’s football game by wearing red, white and blue, according to KABC-TV.
Sgt. Johanny Rosariopichardo, who also used the surname Rosario, joined the Marines after graduating from Lawrence High School in Lawrence, Massachusetts, where Mayor Kendrys Vasquez said residents are “heartbroken” about the death of the 25-year-old.
The U.S. has been rushing to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies from the country to meet President Biden’s goal of withdrawing all U.S. troops by August 31 — a goal that became much more complicated following the Taliban’s unexpectedly rapid conquest of the country. Biden dispatched thousands of additional troops to the country for evacuation operations. On Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued an alert for Americans to “leave immediately” due to security threats, and one day later, a suicide bombing attack was carried out that has been attributed to the Islamic State terrorist group. At least 15 U.S. troops were injured in the attack and nearly 200 Afghans were killed. U.S. forces have helped evacuate over 109,000 people since Aug. 14.