Who were the Marines and service members killed in Afghanistan during the Kabul airport attack? Rylee McCollum was about to become a young father in only three weeks and wanted to be a Marine for as long as anyone could remember, even toting around a rifle in his diapers. Jared Schmitz was remembered as a “true American hero.” Serving his country was “something he’s always wanted to do, and I’ve never seen a young man train as hard as he did to be the best soldier he can be,” said his dad to a St. Louis radio station.
Max Soviak was a Navy corpsman from Ohio whose sister described him on Instagram by writing, “…my beautiful, intelligent, beat-to-the-sound of his own drum, annoying, charming baby brother was killed yesterday helping to save lives. he was a f***ing medic. there to help people. and now he is gone and my family will never be the same….he was just a kid.”
They were among the 13 U.S. Marines and service members who lost their lives in the Kabul, Afghanistan, attack on August 26, 2021. Heavy is committed to running a tribute and photo for each. You will see those tributes and pictures below for each of the 13.
Max, whose full name was Maxton, wrote on his Instagram page in June, “It’s kill or be killed, definitely trynna be on the kill side. #imnotsurprisedmotherfuckers #NDA.” It was his final post.
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David Lee Espinoza was described as a “brave young man from Laredo, Texas.”
Kareem Nikoui was a young Marine from California whose dad told Daily Beast he “really loved that [Marine Corps] family. He was devoted—he was going to make a career out of this, and he wanted to go. No hesitation for him to be called to duty.”
Hunter Lopez was the son of a California sheriff’s captin who served in the department’s Explorers program before joining the Marines.
Taylor Hoover, of Utah, “spent his entire adult life as a Marine, serving. Doing the hard things that most of us can’t do,” his uncle wrote on Facebook.
Daegan Page of Nebraska was described by his family to KETV as ” genuinely happy guy that you could always count on.”
Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss was “a motivated young man who loved his country. He was a believer so we will see him again in Gods heaven,” his grandfather told WKRN-TV.
Humberto Sanchez was a colonel from Indiana who was not yet 30, wrote the mayor of his hometown on Facebook, who added, “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.”
Johanny Rosario was serving as part of a a Female Engagement Team.
Dylan Merola was a 19 year old man from California who “smiled all the time” in boot camp.
Nicole Gee was described as a “Marine’s Marine.”
President Joe Biden said in a news conference that the dead service members were “standing guard at the airport…These American service members who gave their lives are… heroes.. engaged in the selfless mission to save the lives of others.” However, some of the parents of the service members were very upset by how their children died. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Asked by the radio host in St. Louis what message he wanted Americans to remember, Mark Schmitz, Jared’s dad, said: “Be afraid of our leadership or lack thereof. Pray every day for the soldiers who are putting their lives at risk and doing what they love, which is protecting all of us. I think they’re the only ones that we can honestly say have our backs.”
The Daily Beast reported that Steve Nikoui, a Trump supporter and Kareem’s dad, expressed anger toward President Biden, saying, “They sent my son over there as a paper pusher and then had the Taliban outside providing security. I blame my own military leaders… Biden turned his back on him. That’s it.”
Here is a tribute and photo of each hero, added as they are released:
Rylee McCollum, Wyoming: ‘The Definition of Courage’
Rylee McCollum, of Bondurant, Wyoming, was remembered as “the definition of courage.”
Chi McCollum, his sister, wrote on Facebook, “Rylee James. My heart is completely shattered. I love you so much. You are my hero and you were going to be the best dad. I love you, I love you, I love you… Semper Fi.”
On August 19, she wrote, “I’m thankful everyday you are my brother. Stay safe, we love you. Can’t wait for your return and to meet my niece or nephew. Love you Brotato 💗🇺🇸🦅⚓️🌎” He was from Bondurant, Wyoming.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of this brave Marine,” Regi Stone wrote on Facebook.
“When it comes to the definition of courage, Rylee Mccollum is it. We were fortunate to have him in our home in Wyoming many times as he and Eli were getting ready to enlist together. They kept each other out of trouble, which wasn’t easy, because they were both so ready to serve their country. One evening as we were all having dinner, Kim tried giving her best motherly advice and suggested that they let someone else go in first if the time ever came. Without hesitating, they both said, “if anything ever happens to us, just know, we were doing what we loved. We’re heartbroken but proud to have known this brave hero. Please pray for his family, his wife and new baby that will be born soon. And, let’s keep all his Marine brothers in our prayer. Semper Fi.”
Wyoming’s Governor Mark Gordon confirmed McCollum’s death on Facebook.
“I’m devastated to learn Wyoming lost one of our own in yesterday’s terrorist attack in Kabul, Afghanistan,” he wrote.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of U.S. Marine Rylee McCollum of Bondurant. Jennie and I, along with all of Wyoming and the entire nation, thank Rylee for his service.”
The Casper Star-Tribune reported that Rylee McCollum was on his first deployment for the evacuation and was manning a checkpoint at the airport when he died.
His older sister, Roice McCollum, told the newspaper that he was expecting a baby in three weeks.
“He wanted to be a Marine his whole life and carried around his rifle in his diapers and cowboy boots,” McCollum’s sister said. “He was determined to be in infantry… Rylee wanted to be a history teacher and a wrestling coach when he finished serving his country. He’s a tough, kind, loving kid who made an impact on everyone he met. His joke and wit brought so much joy.”
She added: “Rylee will always be a hero not just for the ultimate sacrifice he made for our country, but for the way he impacted every life around him for the better. Making us stronger, kinder, teaching us to love deeper.”
Rylee’s sister Chi wrote on Facebook, “My hero, Our hero, an American f***ing hero. I love you.”
Read more about McCollum here.
Hunter Lopez, California: Son of a Sheriff’s Captain
Sheriff Chad Bianco, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, posted a tribute to Lopez, 22.
“I am unbelievably saddened and heartbroken for the Lopez family as they grieve over the loss of their American Hero. Hunter Lopez, son of our own Captain Herman Lopez and Deputy Alicia Lopez, tragically lost his life while serving our country in the United States Marine Corps. He was killed in Kabul, Afghanistan on Thursday, August 26th. Before joining the Marine Corps, Hunter proudly served in our Sheriff’s Explorer Program,” he wrote.
“Our entire department is mourning this tragic loss. The Lopez family exemplifies the meaning of Service Above Self.” He planned on joining the Sheriff’s Department after his service.
Kareem Nikoui, California: ‘He Was Going to Make a Career Out of This’
Nikoui’s father, Steve, a California carpenter, told Daily Beast, “I stayed home from work yesterday because there was that attack and I knew he was there. So all day, I was glued to the TV.” He knew it would take about eight hours to tell him if his son was among the dead, and horribly, around 7:15 p.m. PT, “these young men walked up,” he said.
He told Daily Beast, those Marines were “more choked up than me,” Nikoui said. “I was actually trying to console them. But at the same time, I just wanted them to get out as soon as possible so that no one from my family came back and saw them. I thought it appropriate that I be able to tell them.”
“I haven’t gone to bed all night,” Nikoui continued to the publication. “I’m still in shock. I haven’t been able to grasp everything that’s going on.”
Kareem “loved what he was doing, he always wanted to be a Marine,” said Nikoui to Daily Beast. He was initially stationed at Camp Pendleton and often brought fellow Marines home for the holidays.
“He really loved that [Marine Corps] family. He was devoted—he was going to make a career out of this, and he wanted to go. No hesitation for him to be called to duty,” the father said.
The Daily Beast reported that the father, a Trump supporter, expressed anger toward President Biden, saying, “They sent my son over there as a paper pusher and then had the Taliban outside providing security. I blame my own military leaders… Biden turned his back on him. That’s it.”
A woman wrote on Facebook, “We lost a member of our Norco family yesterday. My friends grandson was one of the Marines killed in Kabul…Kareem Nikoui you are our hero and a hero to so many you were helping. Godspeed Marine! We thank you for your ultimate sacrifice and we will not forget you.”
Read more about Nikoui here.
Jared Schmitz, Missouri: ‘True American Hero’
Jared Schmitz, 20, was identified by his father in the St. Louis radio interview as one of the 13 U.S. Marines and service members who died in the attacks.
Speaking to St. Louis Today radio, Mark Schmitz emotionally paid tribute to his son, who was from the St. Louis, Missouri, area, saying that serving in the Armed Forces was “something he’s always wanted to do, and I’ve never seen a young man train as hard as he did to be the best soldier he can be. That’s a big part of why we are all obviously devastated and sad, but there’s so much anger right now because he wasn’t even given that opportunity to demonstrate all the skills he had…learned while in the Corps, and he took his job very seriously. Someone came along took the easy way out and ended everything for him and for us. And the others who were killed.”
State Rep. Nick Schroer wrote on Facebook, “Today please pray for Lance Corporal Jared Schmitz who paid the ultimate sacrifice yesterday serving our nation. This young marine was from St. Charles County and is a true American hero. Keep his family in your prayers today. Thank you for your service young man! God Bless you and your family, Marine.”
Heavy reached out to Jared’s father to see if the family wanted to say more, and the father said they would be sending out a release soon.
Schmitz told St. Louis Today’s Carol Daniels: “Marines came by at 2:30 in the morning to give the horrific news. They are supposed to come back today to follow up on more details, what happens next. I don’t know a lot but unfortunately our son was one of the 13 casualties yesterday.”
Schmitz said Jared had only been in Afghanistan for two weeks.
“He was stationed in Jordan on his first deployment and then when things got a little hairy over in Afghanistan; he was one of the 6,000 or so troops that was called in.”
The father said that he and his wife were concerned when they found out Jared would be going to Afghanistan. “We knew this was something he trained for and was looking forward to participating in,” he said. “He was not the type that liked to sit around and get his four years in and walk away.”
He added, “He wanted to be in a situation where he actually made a difference in what his role was within the Marine Corps; he was excited to get that opportunity. As his parents, of course we were terrified. I don’t have words for how upset we are and I am sure he is as well, This is just absolutely devastating.”
Mark Schmitz said that his son graduated from high school in 2019 and as a Marine in October 2020. He was a Lance Corporal.
“He was probably one of the coolest unique individuals I’ve ever met. Very honored, I can call him my son,” the father said, becoming emotional during the radio interview.
“His life meant so much more and so incredibly devastated that I won’t be able to see the man that he was very quickly growing into becoming.”
Read more about Jared Schmitz here.
Max Soviak, Ohio: ‘Helping to Save Lives’
Soviak’s sister Marilyn posted on Instagram, that her “baby brother was killed yesterday helping to save lives.”
I’ve never been one for politics and i’m not going to start now. What I will say is that my beautiful, intelligent, beat-to-the-sound of his own drum, annoying, charming baby brother was killed yesterday helping to save lives. he was a f***ing medic. there to help people. and now he is gone and my family will never be the same. there is a large Maxton sized hole that will never be filled. he was just a kid. we are sending kids over there to die. kids with families that now have holes just like ours. i’m not one for praying but damn could those kids over there use some right now. my heart is in pieces and I don’t think they’ll ever fit back right again.
Max Soviak was a Navy corpsman. He was a medic in the U.S. Navy, and was a native of Berlin Heights, Ohio, according to Fox 8.
“Max was full of life in everything he did,” Edison Local Schools said in a statement to the television station. He was killed at the airport’s Abbey Gate.
“He was well respected and liked by everyone who knew him,” the district said.
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U.S. Senator Rob Portman wrote, “Jane and I are heartbroken by the death of Max Soviak, a Navy Fleet Marine Force Hospital Corpsman from Berlin Heights, who lost his life in the service of his country. He was a hero who died serving with his Marine brothers helping to save fellow countrymen and our Afghan allies. We mourn his loss and are praying for his family and friends.”
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost tweeted, “Max Soviak was one of ours, a 2017 graduate of Edison High School. Each one who died had a hometown where they were known—classmates, friends, family. Familiar places they should’ve been able to return to as they grew older sights and sounds and memories. They did not die as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans, self-sacrificially serving others in the face of danger. Let us honor them.”
Read more about Soviak here.
David Lee Espinoza, Texas: ‘A Brave Young Man’
David Lee Espinoza was a Marine. The City of Laredo, Texas, wrote on Facebook, “The City of Laredo expresses its most heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of U.S. Marine David Lee Espinoza, a brave young man from Laredo, Texas. Thank you for your service to the United States of America and Laredo. Your acts of courage and bravery will always be remembered in our community.
Darin Taylor Hoover, Jr., Utah: ‘Spent His Entire Adult Life as a Marine’
Jeremy Soto wrote of Hoover, “My handsome nephew, Staff Seargent Taylor Hoover. Taylor spent his entire adult life as a Marine, serving. Doing the hard things that most of us can’t do. He is a hero. Taylor is one of the 13 fallen in Afghanistan. We are wounded. We are bruised. We are angry. We are crushed… but we remain faithful. I am reminded of a passage of scripture from Isaiah 53.”
He quoted, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5 ESV.”
Soto added: “Thank you for your courage nephew. We love you always.”
Journalist Ryan Cabrera wrote on Facebook: “Staff Sgt. Darin Taylor Hoover Jr. is one of the Marines killed in Afghanistan yesterday. He’s from Utah. His father told me he was one of the best people you could ever know and is proud of him for doing an incredibly tough job with honor.”
Cabrera added, “American flags have been placed outside the Hoover family home, as well as several in the neighborhood. Staff Sgt. Darin Taylor Hoover’s father agreed to do an interview with me. He said he wants everyone to know who his son is and how much he loved serving our country 🇺🇸”
Rep. John Curtis wrote in a statement, “I am extremely saddened to hear that a victim of the terrorist attack at the Kabul airport was Utah-native Taylor Hoover. Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover is a hero who continued evacuating civilians despite knowing that an attack at the airport was a real possibility. He undoubtably saved many American and Afghan lives through his selfless commitment to public service and the United States. My prayers are with his family and loved ones.”
Ryan Knauss, Tennessee: ‘a Motivated Young Man Who Loved His Country’
Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss was a graduate of Gibbs High School, according to WKRN-TV.
Knauss’s grandfather Wayne Knauss told the television station that Knauss, 23, “grew up in a Christian home, attended Berean Christian school through 8th grade and spent, 4 years at Gibbs High. A motivated young man who loved his country. He was a believer so we will see him again in Gods heaven.”
Stepmother Linnae Knauss told the television station that Knauss planned to move to Washington D.C.
“He was a super-smart hilarious young man,” she said.
Daegan Page, Nebraska: ‘A Genuinely Happy Guy You Could Always Count On’
Daegan Page’s family released a statement to Abbie Petersen KETV.
“Our beloved son, Corporal Daegan William-Tyeler Page, 23, was killed in Afghanistan yesterday. Daegan joined the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating from Millard South High School. He loved the brotherhood of the Marines and was proud to serve as a member of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California,” they wrote.
“Daegan’s girlfriend Jessica, his mom, dad, step-mom, step-dad, 4 siblings, and grandparents are all mourning the loss of a great son, grandson, and brother. Daegan was raised in Red Oak, Iowa and the Omaha metro area and was a longtime member of the Boy Scouts. He enjoyed playing hockey for Omaha Westside in the Omaha Hockey Club and was a diehard Chicago Blackhawks fan. He loved hunting and spending time outdoors with his dad, as well as being out on the water. He was also an animal lover with a soft spot in his heart for dogs.”
They added: “Daegan always looked forward to coming home and hanging out with his family and many buddies in Nebraska. To his younger siblings, he was their favorite jungle gym and to his friends, he was a genuinely happy guy that you could always count on. After finishing his enlistment, Daegan planned to come home and go to a local trade school, possibly to become a lineman. Daegan will always be remembered for his tough outer shell and giant heart. 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.”
Humberto Sanchez, Indiana
Humberto Sanchez was a graduate of Logansport High School in Indiana, according to the TribStar.
He was a colonel.
Mayor Chris Martin wrote on Facebook:
Like many, I have been heartbroken over the recent loss of the 13 U.S. service members who were murdered in the terrorist attacks against our evacuation efforts in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Even more heartbreaking is learning the news today that one of those killed was from right here at home in Logansport, Indiana.
This young man had not yet even turned 30 and still had his entire life ahead of him. 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.
It is this sentiment, and this act of valor which is paramount, requiring each and every one of us to give pause and to lift these families up in prayer and in love.
Echoing the words of our Governor…now is not the time for division. Now is not the time for politics. This is a time for unity, and a collective mourning of those who gave their lives in sacrifice for a cause greater than themselves.
To honor their memory, it is this in which we should all aspire, to continue the ripple effect of making a positive change in our world. To do so is preventing the lives of all of those we’ve lost from being done so in vain.
The battle we face is against evil, not against one another. The only way in which we will prevail and bring to justice, those who continue to rob these young heroes of their futures, is if we do it together.
The more we continue to be divided, the easier it will be to do us harm.
May God bless America, and continue to wrap His loving arms around those who are still fighting to get everyone home safely.
Johanny Rosario, Massachusetts: Part of a Female Empowerment Team
Rosario was 25. She attended Lawrence High School.
“We are heartbroken by the death of the service men and women due to the bombing in Kabul this week. I and the City of Lawrence are particularly saddened that one of those brave souls was a daughter of our City,” said Lawrence Mayor Kendrys Vasquez to WCVB. “I have been in touch with the family of the Lawrencian killed in action to extend mine and my family’s most sincere condolences and offer all of the aid that my administration can provide as they grieve this great loss. At this time, the family’s most immediate wish is to be given privacy and that their loved one be recognized as the hero that she was.”
She was a sergeant recently honored by the Naval Amphibious Force, Task Force 51/5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, which was her unit, according to the television statement. She was serving as part of a Female Engagement Team.
Dylan Merola, California: ‘He Smiled All the Time’
Nancy Alvarado wrote on Twitter, “This kiddo? His name is Dylan Merola. He graduated from boot camp with my son. My son says he smiled all the time in boot camp. That’s all I know about him. But I can guess at his mama’s heart, and I grieve for her tonight as well.”
He was only 19. He was from California. There is a GoFundMe page to help with his funeral.
According to ABC 7, “THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola of Rancho Cucamonga has been identified as the third SoCal service member killed in the Kabul airport suicide bombing attack. Merola was a graduate of Los Osos High School.”
Nicole Gee, California: A ‘Marine’s Marine’
Nicole Gee was described as a “Marine’s Marine.”
Her friend Mallory Harrison wrote a moving tribute:
Her car is parked in our lot.
It’s so mundane. Simple. But it’s there.
My very best friend, my person, my sister forever. My other half. We were boots together, Corporals together, & then Sergeants together. Roommates for over 3 years now, from the barracks at MOS school to our house here. We’ve been attached at the hip from the beginning. I can’t quite describe the feeling I get when I force myself to come back to reality & think about how I’m never going to see her again. How her last breath was taken doing what she loved—helping people—at HKIA in Afghanistan. Then there was an explosion. And just like that, she’s gone.
Our generation of Marines has been listening to the Iraq/Afghan vets tell their war stories for years. It’s easy to feel distant when you’re listening to those conversations, it’s easy for that war & those stories to sound like something so distant—something that you feel like you’re never going to experience since you joined the Marine Corps during peacetime. The stories are powerful and moving. Motivating. You know it can happen. And you train to be ready if/when it does. You’re ready. Gung-Ho. You raise your hand for all of the deployments, you put in the work. But it’s hard to truly relate to those stories when most of the deployments nowadays involve a trip to Oki or a boring 6 months on ship.
Then bad people do bad things, and all of a sudden, the peaceful float you were on turns into you going to Afghanistan & for some, never coming back. It turns into your friends never coming home.
Her car is parked in our lot.
For a month now, it’s been parked in our little lot on Camp Lejeune at the Comm Shop where I work. I used it while my car was getting fixed & I just haven’t gotten around to bringing it back to our house. I drove it around the parking lot every once in a while to make sure it would be good for when she came home. So many Marines have walked past it, most of them the newer generations of Marines, our generation of Marines. The same Marines who often feel so distant from the war stories their bosses tell them about. I’m sure they thought nothing of it—just a car parked in a parking spot. Some of them knew her. Some of them didn’t. But they all saw her car. They all walked past it. The war stories, the losses, the flag-draped coffins, the KIA bracelets & the heartbreak. It’s not so distant anymore.
Her car is still there, & she’s gone forever.
I love the first photo. We climbed to the top of sugar cookie in 29 one Saturday morning a few years ago to pay our respects. I snapped the picture on my camera. I never would’ve thought her name would be on a cross like those one day. There’s no way to adequately prepare for that feeling. No PowerPoint training, no class from the chaps, nothing. Nothing can prepare you.
My best friend. 23 years old. Gone. I find peace knowing that she left this world doing what she loved. She was a Marine’s Marine. She cared about people. She loved fiercely. She was a light in this dark world. She was my person.
Til Valhalla, Sergeant Nicole Gee. I can’t wait to see you & your Momma up there. I love you forever & ever.