ACROSS AMERICA — After a suicide bombing at the gates of Hamid Karzai International Airport took the lives of more than 180 people, the U.S. Department of Defense on Saturday confirmed the identities of the 13 U.S. Service members who were killed in the blast in the Afghanistan capital city of Kabul, according to a tweet from The Military Times.
Thursday’s bombing, blamed on an Afghan offshoot of the Islamic State group, marked one of the most lethal terror attacks the country has ever seen. U.S. officials said it was also the deadliest day for American forces in Afghanistan since 2011.
Details about the fallen soldiers started to emerge Friday as family, friends and loved ones took to social media to honor them and shared their stories with local news media.
Among the U.S. service members killed in the bombing were 11 Marines, a Navy sailor and an Army soldier. One sent home a video of him giving candy to Afghan children the day before he died. Another was a newlywed who was expecting a baby in just a few weeks.
Here’s what we know about the U.S. service members who lost their lives this week. Ages and hometowns were reported by The Marine Corps Times.
Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola, 20, Rancho Cucamonga, California
Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola, a graduate of Los Osos High School, had been in Kabul for a little more than a week, his mother told CBS2. He was planning to go to college and study engineering. She shared with the television station the final text message he sent to her before Thursday’s bombing.
“He wrote ‘I won’t be able to talk for a little while, we’re being sent to a different location,'” Cheryl Merola told CBS2. “I love you and I’ll talk to you soon.”
“He was one of the best kids ever. Kind. Loving. Giving to every single person. He would give anything for anybody,” Cheryl Merola told the television station. » Read the full story on Banning-Beaumont Patch
This undated photo provided by U.S. Department of Defense Twitter page posted Aug. 20, 2021 shows Sgt. Nicole Gee holding a baby at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. (U.S. Department of Defense via AP)
Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23, Roseville, California
Marine Sgt. Nicole Gee posted a photo of herself on Instagram, cradling an Afghan infant just days before her death. “I love my job,” she captioned the photo.
Gee served as a maintenance technician with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, according to a report by military publication Stars and Stripes. She was described by colleagues as a “model marine.”
“She had a name. She was doing God’s work…..a warrior,” Capt. Karen Holliday said in a post on her personal Facebook page, Stars and Stripes reported. “Searching [sic] Afghan women and children trying to get out of the country.” » Read the full story on Banning-Beaumont Patch
Sgt. Johanny Rosario, 25, Lawrence, Massachusetts
Sgt. Johanny Rosario, a graduate of Lawrence High School, was among the servicemen and women killed in Kabul on Thursday. Rosario’s death was confirmed by the Essex County Sheriff’s Department.
“Our hearts and prayers are with the family of Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosario,” the department tweeted. “We hold Sgt. Rosario and her family in our hearts.” » Read the full story on Andover Patch
Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, 22, Logansport, Indiana
Kennedy Rickerd, who attended school with Cpl. Humberto Sanchez from elementary through high school, told The Washington Post that “everybody loved him.”
“He was a light that was on 24/7,” Rickerd told The Post.
Before Sanchez joined the Marines, he was known for making people in his hometown laugh.
“This young man had not yet even turned 30 and still had his entire life ahead of him,” Logansport Mayor Chris Martin wrote on Facebook. “Any plans he may have had for his post-military life were given in sacrifice due to the heart he exhibited in putting himself into harm’s way to safeguard the lives of others.”
Navy Hospitalman Max Soviak, Berlin Heights, Ohio
Hospitalman Max Soviak, a northeast Ohio native, was among those killed during the terrorist attack Thursday.
Soviak was a 2017 graduate of Edison Local Schools. During his school days, he took part in activities including football, wrestling, tennis, track and band.
His sister Marilyn Soviak remembered him on Instagram, according to a report by Reuters, writing, “My beautiful, intelligent, beat-to-the-sound of his own drum, annoying, charming baby brother was killed yesterday helping to save lives.” » Read the full story on Cleveland Patch
Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20, Norco, California
Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui’s father, Steve Nikoui, said his son sent him a video the day before the attack. In the video, Kareem was talking to Afghan children and giving them candy at the Kabul airport.
Steve Nikoui was notified of the 20-year-old’s death when three Marines arrived at his house Thursday, he told Reuters.
“He was born the same year it started, and ended his life with the end of this war,” Steve Nikoui told the publication. » Read the full story on Palm Desert Patch
Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, 20, Jackson, Wyoming
Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum graduated from high school two years ago before joining the U.S. Marine Corps, according to a Reuters report. Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon confirmed McCollum’s death on Twitter.
“I’m devastated to learn Wyoming lost one of our own in yesterday’s terrorist attack in Kabul,” Gordon wrote.
McCollum, a graduate of Jackson Hole High School who wanted to teach history one day, according to The Associated Press, recently got married and was expecting a baby with his wife. His sister told the Casper Star Tribune that the baby was due in three weeks.
“He wanted to be a Marine his whole life and carried around his rifle in his diapers and cowboy boots,” Roice McCollum told the newspaper.
Regi Stone, the father of one of McCollum’s friends, described McCollum as “a good kid,” who was resilient, smart and courageous, The AP reported.
Stone read a note that his wife, Kim, sent to their son Eli Stone, who is also in the military and deployed elsewhere: “I remember standing in our kitchen and telling y’all to run the other way if you had to go in first. And both of you saying, ‘If we die doing this, we die doing what we love.’ I never knew that would come true, so hold onto all the great memories. I know he would want all of his brothers to stay strong and fight hard.”
Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20, St. Charles, Missouri
Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz’s father, Mark, confirmed his son’s death in a phone call to The Washington Post. Schmitz told St. Louis-based KMOX that his son always wanted to be a soldier.
“His life meant so much more. I’m so incredibly devastated that I won’t be able to see the man that he was very quickly growing into becoming,” Schmitz told the radio station.
Missouri State Rep. Nick Schroer posted about Schmitz on Facebook, saying he “paid the ultimate sacrifice yesterday serving our nation.”
Lance Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, Indio, California
A corporal in the Marine Corps, Lance Cpl. Hunter Lopez had planned to join the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department as a deputy after his deployment. His mother is a deputy sheriff and his father a sheriff’s captain, according to a statement issued by the Riverside Sheriff’s Association confirming his death.
“Hunter was the victim of vicious evil and was killed because he wore a United States Marine uniform with love and pride,” the sheriff’s group said in the statement. “Our entire community feels the anguish, and we mourn the death of Hunter, who answered the call to serve, defend and protect our nation.
“Like his parents who serve our community, being a Marine to Hunter wasn’t a job; it was a calling.” » Read the full story on Palm Desert Patch
Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, 31, Salt Lake City, Utah
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover was “a true hero” who died “doing what he loved doing, serving the United States,” his father, Darin Hoover, said in a phone call to The Washington Post.
“We’ll be forever grateful for his sacrifice & legacy,” U.S. Rep. Blake Moore (R-Utah) tweeted. “He spent his last moments serving our state and nation, and we’ll never forget his unwavering notion.”
Moore was a 2008 high school graduate, according to his Facebook page, The Post reported.
Cpl. Daegan Page, 23, Omaha, Nebraska
Marine Cpl. Daegan William-Tyeler Page, 23, “loved the brotherhood of the Marines and was proud to serve,” his family said in a statement released to news station KCAU. He was born in Red Oak, Iowa, and lived in the Omaha, Nebraska, metropolitan area.
The former Boy Scout planned to enter trade school after his deployment.
“Daegan will always be remembered for his tough outer shell and giant heart,” his family said. “Our hearts are broken, but we are thankful for the friends and family who are surrounding us during this time. Our thoughts and prayers are also with the other Marine and Navy families whose loved ones died alongside Daegan.”
Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23, Corryton, Tennessee
Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23, was motivated, loved his country and was looking forward to returning to the United States and eventually moving to Washington, D.C., his family told news station WATE in Knoxville.
Knauss had attended Gibbs High School in Corryton, Tennessee, and was raised in a Christian home, his grandfather, Wayne Knauss, told the television station.
“He was a believer, so we will see him again in God’s heaven,” Wayne Knauss said.
His stepmother, Linnae Knauss, said Ryan was “a super-smart, hilarious young man.”
Lance Cpl. David Espinoza, 20, Rio Bravo, Texas
Elizabeth Holguin told The Washington Post that her son, Lance Cpl. David Espinoza, called her from Kabul on Wednesday to tell her. “I love you” were the last words he spoke to her. He leaves a “David-sized hole nobody can fill.”
Her son, whom she described as quiet and soft-spoken, had always dreamed of being a Marine and enlisted after he graduated from Lyndon B. Johnson High School in Laredo, Texas.
“It was his calling and he died a hero,” his mother told The Post.
Holguin remembered him as a quiet, soft-spoken young man who enjoyed spending time with family and friends. Now, her heart has “a David-sized hole nobody can fill,” she said.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) said Espinoza “embodied the values, the grit and the dedication” of U.S. military personnel.
“When people talk about the border, they have a tendency of forgetting the good, patriotic people that believe in our country,” Cuellar told The Post. “David is certainly one of those examples of what we have here at the border: a young man that went across the world trying to get Americans and allies of the U.S. to safety.”