Honoring Our Fallen Heroes

One week ago, America lost thirteen young heroes. They were sent to Kabul and were killed by a suicide bomber, seven thousand miles away from their home, on the opposite side of the globe.

Written By Carson Wolf. We honor their lives, dreams, courage, and love for this country.

Dylan R. Merola, 20 (2001-2021)


Friends left touching messages on his family’s goFundMe page.

“He was a great friend and was always so fun to be around. Dylan filled the air with laughter whenever he was in the room. I am gonna miss you. I love you man.”
"You have made a difference in this world and I’m sad you can’t see it from down here. We all love and miss you, Fly high Dylan. I know you’ll be watching over us. Thank you for your sacrifice.”
“I knew Dylan for my most impactful year of highschool in theater tech. He always showed up with a smile and brought energy to everyone he was with. RIP to this hero and friend”

There is a GoFundMe set up to help his family.

Rylee McCollum, 20 (2001-2021)


A newly-wed Lance Corporal in the U.S. Marines from Wyoming, Rylee would be a father three weeks after his passing.

Rylee’s sister, Roice McCollum, noted about her brother:

"He was a son, a brother, a husband, and a father with a baby due in just three weeks. Rylee had wanted to be a Marine his whole life, so much so that he carried around a toy rifle in his diapers and cowboy boot as a toddler. Rylee wanted to be a history teacher and a wrestling coach when he finished serving his country. 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.”

Two different GoFundMe pages have been created to help support both the McCollum family and Rylee’s wife, Gigi.

Jared Schmitz, 20 (2001-2021)


Jared’s father, a 20-year-old Marine from Missouri, found out his son was killed at 2 am via the news. Jared’s father reflected on his son, saying:

"The love and support that we have experienced is incredible. [Jared's] entire world was the US Marine Corps," his father wrote.
"Ever since he committed himself to the Marines in high school, he wanted to join. He showed a level of dedication that I haven't seen."

Reportedly, Jared was a role model for many people in his community, especially his sister, who suffered from special needs disorders.

His father noted that "She worshipped the ground he walked on. He would meet her at the bus stop every day and walk home. It really made her day. She would get a kick out of making her backpack heavier to get on his nerves, but of course, he just turned that into training. I didn't know it was possible to be as proud of someone as I am of him now," he wrote. "At first, I was terrified for him to join the Corps, but with his dedication -- in the end, he was doing what he loved and what his mission was in life."

There is a goFundMe set up to establish a foundation in his memory.

Kareem Nikoui, 21 (2000-2021)


Just turning 21, Kareen was from Tennessee. Kareem’s aunt noted that

"He was a light in our family," his aunt, Jaimee Chappell Wong, wrote.
"Funny, charming, driven, talented & dedicated to being a Marine. This was my sister's worst fear & it has now come to life. As you can imagine, the pain for them is unbearable."
Kareem “loved what he was doing; he always wanted to be a Marine.”

The Nikoui family started a GoFundMe page in Kareem’s memory.

David Lee Espinoza, 20 (2001-2021)


He was a 20-year-old Christian from Laredo, Texas. His mother says that David was reserved, kept to himself and a close circle of friends, but loved to be around family and was always looking for ways to help his community.

“He was just my son, my brave son, my everything,” His mother said. “He was just perfect.”

There are two goFundMe's set up for his memorial fund. Here and here.

Hunter Lopez, 22 (1999-2021)


A 22-year-old Marine from Southern California, Hunter dreamed of following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a Sheriff's Deputy in his hometown.

Alicia Lopez, Hunter’s mother, reflected on her son, saying:

"My son called me and told me that the photo of him and the little boy, he scooped up the boy and carried him on his shoulders for 5 miles to safety. He told me, 'mama we are so resourceful. We hot-wired a car and got back to base to be safe.’"
“Being a Marine to Hunter wasn't a job; it was a calling,”

His family flew to Dover Airfield to claim their son’s remains.

There is a fund set up to help his family.

Humberto A. Sanchez, 22 (1999-2021)


Humberto graduated from Logansport High School in Indiana in 2017. He was bright, was liked by all, and loved art.

"He enjoyed his life. He told me he was prepared for this, and we knew this was (something) that could happen… He told me that if he didn't make it home, I was to tell his story, so I'm doing this for him," his mother said.
“Humberto was a bright, athletic young man who was popular, well-liked by his soccer teammates, classmates, coaches, and teachers,” his High School principal said.

There is a fund set up for his family.

Max Soviak, 22 (2001-2021)


A 20-year-old Marine from California, Max was a devout Christian. Max’s father reflected on his son, noting:

"His final words to Rachel (his mother) over FaceTime, when he was telling her goodbye was after she told him to be safe and he said 'Don't worry mom, my guys got me they won't let anything happen to me.' Today she realized that they all just went together."

There is now a GoFundMe page dedicated to the Soviak family.

Daegan Page, 23 (1998-2021)


A 23-year-old Corporal in the United States Marines, Page was from Omaha, Nebraska. His family reflected on Daegan, saying,

"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. 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."

After finishing his service, Daegan had hoped to work in electrical engineering as a lineman.

There is a goFundMe set up for his girlfriend.

Nicole L. Gee, 23 (1998-2021)


Nicole Gee, a 23-year-old Sergeant in the United States Marines, was from Sacramento. Gee’s best friend reflected on her, saying that

"We were boots together, Corporals together, & then Sergeants together. Roommates for over three years now, from the barracks at MOS school to our house here. We've been attached at the hip from the beginning," Harrison wrote.

"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. I drove her car around the parking lot every once in a while to make sure it would be good for when she came home. Her car is still there, & she's gone forever."
"My best friend. 23 years old. Gone. I find peace knowing that she left this world doing what she loved," Gee's friend added in the post. "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."

Gee’s family started a GoFundMe page in Nicole’s memory.

Ryan Knauss, 23 (1998-2021)


Army Special Forces Staff Sergeant Ryan Knauss was from Corryton, Tennessee. Knauss was 23 years old. Knauss’ Grandmother, Evelena Knauss, reflected on the death of her grandson, saying:

“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... You just don’t think it will be yours.”

Congressman Tim Burchett, of Ryan’s district, reflected on the brave sergeant who gave his life in service, saying:

“Ryan gave his life outside that airport helping people he didn’t know get to safety. This is what true heroism looks like and Ryan’s sacrifice will never be forgotten. The Knauss family is in my prayers.”

There is GoFundMe set up for his family and wife.

Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25 (1996-2021)


Johanny served with the Naval Amphibious Force. She graduated from Lawrence High School in 2014 and was a member of Junior ROTC.

“​​Besides being a selfless Marine helping desperate people fleeing away from a life under Taliban, Sgt. Johanny held the torch for her family in Lawrence, Massachusetts,” the fundraiser description reads. “She was the steady force that the family looked up to for strength and moral support. With the fall of this monumental source of support and security to the family, while Sgt. Johanny gave her all fighting for this great country, her family is left shattered and lost.”
“I can’t believe it’s you… after anxiously waiting to hear the names of those fallen brothers and sisters, never in a million years did I ever think your name would be one of them. You were my only friend when I first got to the fleet and the person that trained me in everything that I knew in Supply. You were so good at your job and so good to your Jr Marines.” Tania Kelley, a fellow Marine wrote

Her family has set up a GoFundMe.

Darin T. Hoover, 31 (1990-2021)


Darin Hoover was a 31-year-old Staff Sergeant in the Marine Corps from Salt Lake City. Darin’s father reflected on his son, saying he was:

A "loving, caring, big ole teddy bear. He was always the one to step up and defend the little guy. His heart was as big as can be. As a parent, I could not be more proud of the man that Taylor had become."

His two sisters also reflected on their big brother, saying,

"My Bubba was so much more than this tragedy. He is my brother and my best friend. He loves to make everyone laugh, especially his two little nieces that he loved and adored. I'd give anything to speak with him one more time and hear his pep talks.

There is a goFundMe set up to support his family and fiance.

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