Remembering

Remembering Our Fallen Brothers and Sisters: These are Their Stories

In the devastating terrorist attack at Hamid Karzai Afghanistan International Airport in Kabul that claimed the lives of approximately 169 Afghans 13 U.S. Service Members were tragically killed. Eleven were United States Marines, one was a Navy Corpsman and one was a soldier of the US Army. According to a Saturday press release from the Department of Defense, which released the names of the U.S. troops they were “killed as the result of an enemy attack while supporting non-combatant evacuation operations,” MarineTimes reports that the names were released 24 hours after the next of kin were informed. Their sacrifice demands that we take just a few moments from our lives to fulfill our own duty as they did theirs. Our duty is far easier but is still quite important. Our duty is remembering.

Remembering Their Names, Remembering Their Stories: The Heroes of Kabul

Remembering

According to a Department of Defense Statement the names of the heroes of Kabul are:

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Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover Jr., 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah. 

Staff Sgt. Hoover was an infantry unit leader. Sgt. Hoover’s father Darin Sr. told The Washington Post, “He was the most loving, giving, understanding person you could ever meet,” “They look back on him and say that they’ve learned so much from him,” Hoover said. “One heck of a leader.” A highly decorated Marine Sgt. Hoover earned  the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Certificate of Commendation (Individual), Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Letter of Appreciation, Meritorious Mast, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, NATO Medal-ISAF Afghanistan, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. Additional awards pending approval may include Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, according to a 1st Marine Division press release.

Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts. 

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The Mayor of Lawrence, Mass. Kendrys Vasquez spoke on behalf of Sgt. Pichardo’s parents, telling the press “In a conversation with her mother (Friday), she spoke of her daughter as a vibrant young person who wanted to give back to the community, and as a result of that, it is her mother’s desire that Johanny will be brought back to the city of Lawrence as the hero she is and I encourage all Lawrencians to be a part of this process,” Vasquez said. “As it is her family’s wish, I will ensure that the city of Lawrence never forgets her name and that we will always remember her as the hero that she is.”

Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, of Sacramento, California. 

“I love my job,” the 23-year-old wrote on a now Iconic Instagram picture showing her cradling a rescued Afghan infant in her arms.“Escorting evacuees onto the bird,” Gee wrote with a heart emoji. According to The New York Post, Sgt. Mallory Harrison, Gee’s roommate in the house they shared at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune, posted a heartbreaking Facebook tribute to her friend late Friday. “I find peace knowing that she left this world doing what she loved,” Harrison wrote. “She was a Marine’s Marine. She cared about people. She loved fiercely. She was a light in this dark world.” Sgt. Gee earned the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal and the National Defense and Global War on Terrorism Service Medals.

Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, California. 

The Riverside Sheriff’s Association honored Cpl. Hunter with a statement “With a heavy heart, we announce the passing of a beloved member of the Riverside Sheriff’s family, United States Marine Corps Corporal Hunter Lopez, one of one 13 United States service members killed at the Kabul airport during the U.S.led evacuation effort. We are heartbroken to hear this sad news about Hunter, who chose to follow a life of service, selflessness, courage, and sacrifice, like his parents. Hunter was a Riverside Sheriff’s Explorer Scout with the Palm Desert Station from September 2014 to August 2017.”

Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, of Omaha, Nebraska. 

Cpl. Page’s family told the press in a statement that he “loved hockey and hunting and “will always be remembered for his tough outer shell and giant heart, Daegan always looked forward to coming home and hanging out with his family and many buddies in Nebraska,” the family statement said. “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.” He served with the 2nd Regiment of the 1st Marine Regiment, a unit known as “The Professionals” Cpl. Page earned the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. Additional awards pending approval may include Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Indiana. 

According to The New York Post, Indiana State Representative Jim Baird identified Cpl. Sanchez via Social Media posts. He wrote, that Sanchez “bravely answered the call to serve his nation.” “I am both proud of his service and deeply saddened by his loss,” the congressman said. “May we never forget Corporal Sanchez’s name or his heroism to a grateful nation. As the family grieves, I ask fellow Hoosiers to please join me in praying for his family during this incredibly difficult time.” Cpl. Sanchez earned the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal during his Marine Corps. career. Additional awards pending approval may include Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas. 

The Laredo Police Department made a tribute to LCpl. Espinoza’s memory according to KGNS, they wrote “Our thoughts and prayers will remain with the family of United States Fallen Marine, David L. Espinoza, as well as to his friends and fellow Marines. Semper Fi. Thank you for your service.” LCpl. Espinoza earned the National Defense Service Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. Additional awards pending approval may include Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, of St. Charles, Missouri.  

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,” Mark Schmitz, LCpl. Jared Smith’s Father told Fox2 St. Louis. LCpl. Schmitz earned the National Defense Service Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. Additional awards pending approval may include Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyoming. 

“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 jokes and wit brought so much joy. “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,” Roice McCollum said to the Casper Star Tribune. LCpl. McCollum earned the National Defense Service Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. Additional awards pending approval may include Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, California. 

“Dylan was a beloved son, brother, grandson, great-grandson, nephew, a great friend, and a brave soldier who paid the ultimate sacrifice at the Abbey Gate at Hamid Karzai International Airport during the evacuation,” friend Joseph Matsuoka wrote as part of a GoFundMe page for the family, as reported in the Orange County Register. LCpl. Merola also earned the National Defense Service Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. Additional awards pending approval may include Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California. 

According to MarineTimes, LCpl. Nikoui was a decorated Marine including include the National Defense Service Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. Additional awards pending approval may include Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon. “I’m going on about 36 hours, I believe, that I’ve been up and I’m still in shock,” Steve Nikoui told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. “The family is devastated and his mother, who’s an excellent mom, is doing the best that she can, considering the circumstances.”

Navy Hospitalman Maxton W. Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio. 

“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,” the sister wrote according to The New York Post.“[H]e was a f–king 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,” she wrote alongside a slideshow of images showing the two as children.“[H]e was just a kid. [W]e are sending kids over there to die. kids with families that now have holes just like ours.”Soviak’s family later released a statement calling him a “wonderful son who loved his family, his community, and was proud to serve in the US Navy.”

“He was excited about the opportunities the Navy would offer him and planned to make the Navy a career,” the statement said. “We are incredibly proud of his service to our country… Words cannot express how heartbroken we are with this news and we will miss Max tremendously.”

Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tennessee. 

“He grew up in a Christian home, attended Berean Christian school through eighth grade and spent, four years at Gibbs High,” Wayne Knauss said of his grandson. “A motivated young man who loved his country. He was a believer so we will see him again in God’s heaven.” Ryan’s Stepmother Linnae Knauss told WATE “He was a super-smart, hilarious young man,” she said.

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