Honor the Fallen

August 30, 2021

Honor The Fallen

An attack at the Kabul airport on August 26, 2021 killed 13 U.S. service members — the deadliest day for America in Afghanistan since 2011.

Lance Cpl. David Lee Espinoza

“At 13, he would always play with his pencils and hangers, that they were his guns. … I feel sad, but I feel happy because he is a hero. He was there helping innocent people. That was what he wanted to do.”

Elizabeth Holguin, the Marine’s mother; Rio Bravo, TX. Espinoza, who aspired to be a Border Patrol agent, was 20 years old.

Sgt. Nicole Gee

"She was an amazing sister, daughter, wife, aunt, niece, cousin, friend, and she was one pretty bad ass Marine."

Misty Fuoco, who says her sister Nicole, from Sacramento, CA, was her “best friend.” Shortly after graduating from high school in 2016 with a 4.1 GPA, Gee enlisted in the Marines; the 23-year-old was recently promoted. Six days before she was killed, Gee posted a photo of herself holding a baby underneath the shade of a building. In the caption she wrote: “Kabul, Afghanistan. I love my job.”

Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover

"… I couldn't be prouder of the young man. He was just a good young man who wanted to serve his country."

Stan Hoover, the Marine’s grandfather; Midvale, UT. 31-year-old Hoover grew up fishing and hunting with his dad & grandfather. His grandfather said the 9/11 terrorist attacks affirmed Hoover’s goal to be a Marine; he was 11 years old at the time. He enlisted at age 19.

Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss

"He was right in the field of work he wanted to be in, and if he knew the outcome, he would do it again."

Alena Knauss, his wife; Corryton, TN. Knauss enlisted in the Army in 2016 and earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart as an infantryman. He later joined the 9th Psychological Operations Battalion. His family said 23-year-old Knauss was excited to return home and move to Washington, D.C.

Cpl. Hunter Lopez

"Please know that Hunter wore the United States Marine uniform with love and pride …"

The family of Cpl. Hunter Lopez in a statement thanking others for their support “during one of the most challenging times in our lives.” Lopez’s parents serve at the Riverside County Sheriff’s Dept. 22-year-old Lopez hoped to become a deputy after his military service.

Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum

“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. We love you Rylee.”

Roice McCollum, the Marine’s sister; Jackson, WY. An asthma diagnosis initially kept him out of the Marines — a dream of his since carrying a toy rifle “in his diapers and cowboy boots.” 20-year-old McCollum was married and expecting a daughter, due in less than a month.

Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola

"… one of the best kids ever. Kind, loving, giving to every single person. He would give anything for anybody."

Cheryl Merola, the Marine’s mom; Rancho Cucamonga, CA. In high school, Merola enjoyed helping with the technical aspects of theater productions (lighting, sound) but decided to follow in the footsteps of his great grandfathers, both Korean War veterans. 20-year-old Merola was on his 1st overseas deployment and planned to study engineering after completing his service.

Lance Cpl. Kareem Mae'lee Grant Nikoui

"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."

Steve Nikoui, the Marine’s father of Norco, CA, said his son “always wanted to be a Marine” and had “no hesitation for him to be called to duty.” Hours before he died, 20-year-old Nikoui sent his family clips of himself with Afghan children.

Cpl. Daegan William-Tyeler Page

"Daegan will always be remembered for his tough outer shell and giant heart."

Daegon’s family; Omaha, NE. 23-year-old Page had four siblings, loved spending time outdoors with his dad, and enjoyed hockey and hunting. He also had a “soft spot” for dogs. Page had been a Boy Scout, and joined the Marines after graduating from high school.

Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo

"Her service was not only crucial to evacuating thousands of women and children, but epitomizes what it means to be a Marine: putting herself in danger for the protection of American values so that others might enjoy them."

A Marine spokesman about Pichardo, age 25; she was from Lawrence, MA & born in the Dominican Republic. Pichardo was on a team of female Marines chosen to “navigate delicate cultural matters” (WSJ) during the evacuation.

Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez

"We're a family who serves. This won't stop us. We'll continue to serve … to keep on protecting those kids."

Sanchez’s mother, Coral Briseño said she learned her son was focused on helping children at Kabul’s airport: “My heart broke when I heard that. My kid was a hero. He cared about others.” 22-year-old Sanchez from Logansport, IN, joined the Marines after graduating high school as an honor student on the varsity soccer team.

Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz

"He was probably one of the coolest, unique individuals I've ever met. I'm very honored that I can call him my son. 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, the 20-year-old’s father; Wentzville, MO. Schmitz joined the Marine Corps shortly after graduating high school; he was on his 1st overseas deployment.

Navy Hospitalman Maxton W. Soviak

"Max was a wonderful son who loved his family, his community, and was proud to serve in the U.S. Navy … we will miss Max tremendously."

Soviak’s parents and 12 siblings said in a statement; Berlin Heights, OH. The 22-year-old trained to provide medical care, played football in high school and was on the championship wrestling team.

2,461 Americans were killed in the war in Afghanistan, including the 13 mentioned here; more than 20,000 wounded including 20 service members that day. The attack also killed and injured dozens of Afghans.

To learn more about each of the fallen U.S. service members, head to our source page.

Service Members Killed in Kabul Bombing Described as Brave and Committed – Wall Street Journal

Slaine Marine who cradled baby at Kabul airport loved her job – The Associated Press

Here are the names of the 13 U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan attack – Military Times

by Jenna Lee,