A Dad-to-Be, a 'Brave Young Man' and 'the Most Patriotic Kid': The 13 Service Members Killed in Afghanistan

In a White House speech, President Joe Biden vowed retaliation for Thursday's airport attack and held a moment of silence for the dead

Clockwise: Nicole Gee, Johanny Rosario, Humberto Sanchez, SSG Ryan Knauss, Rylee McCollum, Maxton Soviak
Some of the U.S. service members killed in the Aug. 26 Afghanistan airport attack, clockwise: Nicole Gee, Johanny Rosario, Humberto Sanchez, SSG Ryan Knauss, Rylee McCollum and Maxton Soviak. Photo: Facebook (4); U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sergeant Mark E Morrow Jr; U.S. Army

Young men and women from across the country — California, Ohio, Texas, Wyoming — are among those killed in the attack outside the Afghanistan capital airport on Thursday that left 13 U.S. service members and scores more civilians dead.

In a White House speech Thursday after the attack, President Joe Biden praised the service members who were safeguarding ongoing evacuation operations in Kabul amid the U.S. withdrawal.

He called them "heroes who have been engaged in a dangerous, selfless mission to save the lives of others."

Officials believe U.S. forces were targeted in a suicide attack by extremists with a branch of the Islamic State who oppose both America and the Taliban.

Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. told reporters Thursday that a suicide bomber struck the Abbey Gate, one of the entry points to Kabul's airport, after which Islamic State gunmen opened fire on the military and civilians.

The working assessment was the bomber, having already passed through other checkpoints en route to the airport, detonated themselves as they were being screened by Americans to enter the gate, McKenzie.

Asked how the assailants could have made it through the layers of security, McKenzie said, "It was a failure somewhere."

He said he did not know the size of the bomb used but suggested that could be responsible for the high number of casualties.

Biden, in his White House speech, vowed retaliation and held a moment of silence for the dead. "We're outraged as well as heartbroken," he said.

"We will not forgive. We will not forget," he said. "We will hunt you down and make you pay."

Here are the names and stories of the victims, as confirmed by the Department of Defense.

David Lee Espinoza, Marine Lance Corporal

Officials in Laredo, Texas, confirmed Espinoza's death in a Facebook post paying tribute to the Laredo native.

"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," they wrote.

"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."

Espinoza was reportedly 20 years old.

Rep. Henry Cuellar, the lawmaker for Espinoza's district, said in a statement that he "joined the military after high school ... with the intention of protecting our nation and demonstrating his selfless acts of service."

"Mr. Espinoza embodied the values of America: grit, dedication, service, and valor," Cuellar said, adding, "My heart goes out to the Espinoza family in this extremely difficult time. The brave never die. Mr. Espinoza is a hero."

Espinoza's mother, Elizabeth Holguin, told The Washington Post her son had dreamed of being a Marine since he was young.

"It was his calling and he died a hero," Holguin told the Post.

Rylee McCollum
Rylee McCollum. Facebook

Rylee McCollum, Marine Lance Corporal

McCollum's death was confirmed by Wyoming's governor, Mark Gordon, where McCollum grew up.

According to The New York Times, McCollum, 20, had recently gotten married and was expecting a child. He enlisted on his 18th birthday.

"He was a beautiful soul," his dad told the Times.

"He's the most patriotic kid you could find. Loved America, loved the military. Tough as nails with a heart of gold."

Wyoming Sen. John Barasso echoed that in a statement, citing McCollum's father: "Rylee wasted no time answering the call to serve our country, joining the Marines right out of high school. As Rylee's dad once said, he was 'full-blooded red, white and blue.' "

Rylee's mother, Kathy McCollum, explained how she was told the news in a recent appearance with radio host Andrew Wilkow, offering strongly-worded criticism of President Biden's role in her son's death.

"I woke up at 4 o'clock this morning," McCollum said. "Two Marines at my door telling me that my son was dead." She added that Biden, "sent my son to die."

Kareem Nikoui
Kareem Nikoui. facebook

Kareem Nikoui, Marine Lance Corporal

In tears, Nikoui's father, Steve, confirmed his son's death to The Daily Beast.

"I haven't gone to bed all night," Steve said. "I'm still in shock. I haven't been able to grasp everything that's going on."

His son, he said, "always wanted to be a Marine."

"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," Steve said.

He had sharp words for the withdrawal of U.S. force at the end of the 20-year Afghanistan war: "I blame my own military leaders," he said, and President Joe Biden.

maxton william
Maxton Soviak. U.S. Navy
maxton william
Maxton Soviak. U.S. Navy

Max Soviak, Navy Hospital Corpsman

Soviak's death was confirmed by the U.S. Navy, the local school district he attended in Ohio and by Rob Portman, an Ohio senator.

According to the Navy, Soviak enlisted in the Navy on Sept. 26, 2017, and graduated from Recruit Training Command, in Great Lakes, Illinois, November 2017.

"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," Portman said in a statement.

In their own statement, Soviak's former school district remembered him as "full of life in everything he did."

"Max was a good student who was active in sports and other activities throughout his school career," the district said. "He was well respected and liked by everyone who knew him. ... He and his family are in all of our thoughts and prayers."

Soviak was 22 years old. His family told the USA Today network that he was "a wonderful son who loved his family, his community, and was proud to serve in the U.S. Navy."

"As we mourn the loss of our son, we also mourn for the loss of the Marines and Soldier who were killed and pray for the speedy recovery of all of those wounded in Afghanistan," Soviak's family said.

"Words cannot express how heartbroken we are with this news and we will miss Max tremendously."

Hunter Lopez
Hunter Lopez. Riverside County Sheriff's Department/Facebook

Hunter Lopez, Marine Corporal

Lopez, the son of two members of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, had dreams of following in his parent's footsteps.

After graduating from high school in 2017, he joined the United States Marine Corps, according to a statement from Sheriff Chad Bianco.

"Hunter, who was 22 years old at the time of his death, planned on following his parent's footsteps and becoming a Riverside County Sheriff's Deputy after returning home from his current deployment," Bianco wrote. "Hunter, thank you for your service to our community and our country. My thoughts and prayers are with your family."

SSG Ryan Knauss
Ryan Knauss. U.S. Army
Ryan Knauss
Ryan Knauss. Twitter

Ryan Knauss, Army Staff Sergeant

News of Knauss' death came as "quite a shock" to his family, his grandmother Evelena Knauss told The Daily Beast.

"We were led to think that it was 12 Marines and one Navy, and we knew our grandson was in the Army. So we were praying for the families of the Marines, not knowing our grandson was one of the ones who lost his life," she said. "You just don't think it will be yours."

"It's been a very sad day for us," she added of the 23 year old, who was born in Tennessee and had already completed one 9-month tour of Afghanistan before he was deployed again. "It shouldn't have had to happen this way."

Johanny Rosario
Johanny Rosario. Facebook

Johanny Rosario Pichardo, Marine Sergeant

Pichardo was identified as a victim of the attack by the Lawrence Police Department in Massachusetts.

"Chief Roy Vasque and the Members of the LPD offer our heartfelt condolences to the family of Marine Corp Sgt Johanny Rosario of Lawrence. Sgt. Rosario was tragically killed in Thursday's senseless act of violence at Kabul Airport," police wrote in a statement. "She and the other American heroes gave their lives helping others to safety. May they and all the victims of this tragic event rest in peace."

Pichardo, 25, previously graduated from Lawrence High School and attended Bridgewater State University, according to CBSN Boston.

Jared Schmitz
Jared Schmitz. Facebook

Jared Schmitz, Marine Lance Corporal

"This has just been absolutely devastating," Schmitz's father Mark told KMOX.

Mark told the outlet that he received word about his 23-year-old son's death shortly before 3:00 a.m. in the morning on Friday.

"As his parents, of course, we were terrified," Mark added. "I don't have words for how upset we are."

"He was probably one of the coolest, unique individuals I ever met," he continued of his son, who graduated from high school in 2019. "I'm very honored that I could call him my son."

2100405-M-GJ479-122, Atlantic Ocean, April 5, 2021- U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Nicole Gee (left middle), a maintenance technician with 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), awaits the launch of an MV-22B Osprey during an en route care exercise aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), April 5, 2021. 24th MEU, embarked with the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group, is forward deployed in the U.S. 6th fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa.
Nicole Gee. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sergeant Mark E Morrow Jr
Nicole L Gee
Nicole Gee. Nicole L. Gee/Instagram

Nicole Gee, Marine Sergeant

Just days before the attack, Gee shared a photograph on her Instagram account holding a baby in her arms at Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport. "I love my job," Gee, 23, captioned the snap.

The California native was remembered as a "hometown hero" in a tribute from the city of Roseville.

"Nicole was a 2016 Oakmont High School graduate who enlisted in the Marines a year after she graduated. Her husband, Jarod Gee, is also an Oakmont graduate and Marine," read the tribute.

In another tribute, Sgt. Mallory Harrison wrote that Gee's "last breath was taken doing what she loved — helping people."

One of Gee's friends, Sgt. Landon Workman, said in a statement sent to People by the Marines: "In Afghanistan Sergeant Gee would work multiple shifts a day just to be around the children and families being evacuated. She was the most loving and caring individual I've ever met, she was the 'mom' of any group she was a part of and had a knack for brightening anyone's day."

Lt. Col. Patrick Williams, the commanding officer of Gee's battalion, said in his own statement that she was "a shining example of what a Sergeant of Marines should be — mature, enthusiastic, and courageous. Her passing weighs heavy on our entire battalion."

Darin T Hoover Jr
Taylor Hoover. Facebook

Darin Hoover Jr., Marine Staff Sergeant

Years before he was able to enlist, the 31-year-old Utah Marine knew that he wanted to serve, according to his father, who said that his son made up his mind following the 9/11 terrorist attack.

"He decided, 'That's what I want to do," his father told Salt Lake CBS affiliate KUTV.

Hoover went on to join the Marines when he was 19 and was on his third tour in Afghanistan — scheduled to return home in September.

"He led his men, and they followed him, but I know in my heart of hearts he was out front," his father said, before reiterating his support for the armed forces. "These guys go out knowing at any time or place their life can be taken in a blink of an eye, and they do it for our freedom every single day."

Daegan W Page
Daegan Page. Page Family

Daegan Page, Marine Corporal

"Our hearts are broken," Page's family said in a statement to the Omaha World-Herald.

Page, who grew up in Iowa and loved playing hockey as a kid, was remembered by his family as a "genuinely happy guy that you could always count on."

According to statements by his family, the longtime Boy Scout was a diehard Chicago Blackhawks fan and animal lover who had a soft spot for dogs.

Leaving no room for doubt about his commitment to service, Page — who joined the Marines after graduating from high school in 2016 — had the words "Death Before Dishonor" tattooed on his chest, according to the outlet.

"He had a special kind of courage and commitment to serve our country and protect others," said Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert. "We owe an immeasurable debt of gratitude to those who wear our nation's uniform, and faithfully and respectfully serve."

Humberto A Sanchez
Humberto Sanchez. Logansport Police Department/Facebook

Humberto Sanchez, Marine Corporal

Sanchez, 22, was remembered as a "bright, athletic young man" by his Indiana high school principal, who also noted that he was a talented artist.

Matt Jones told IndyStar that Sanchez, a 2017 Logansport High School graduate, was "popular, well-liked by his soccer teammates, classmates, coaches, and teachers."

"He was honored to be putting on the Marine uniform and serving his country," Jones added.

"This young man had not yet even turned 30 and still had his entire life ahead of him," Logansport Mayor Chris Martin wrote in a tribute. "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."

Dylan Merola
Dylan Merola.

Dylan Merola, Marine Lance Corporal

Merola, a 20-year-old high school graduate who hoped to study engineering in college, had only been in Afghanistan for about a week before the attack.

"He was supposed to come home in a couple of weeks," a loved one told CBS Los Angeles.

His mother Cheryl remembered her son was "one of the best kids ever." "Kind, loving… he would give anything for anybody," she added.

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