13 US service members killed in Kabul airport attack identified
The Department of Defense on Saturday identified the 13 U.S. service members who were killed in a suicide bombing at Afghanistan’s Kabul airport this week. More than 160 Afghans also died.
The attack has been blamed on Afghanistan’s offshoot of the Islamic State group and happened amid ongoing evacuation flights since the Taliban took control on Aug. 15. The U.S. has since retaliated with a drone strike that killed two members of the Islamic State group.
President Joe Biden said in a statement Saturday that the 13 service members whose lives were lost "were heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice."
"Their bravery and selflessness has enabled more than 117,000 people at risk to reach safety thus far. May God protect our troops and all those standing watch in these dangerous days."
Although most other countries have finished their evacuation flights, the U.S. planned to keep its round-the-clock flights going until the Aug. 31 deadline.
Who were the U.S. service members killed in Kabul airport attack?
Eleven Marines, one Navy sailor and one Army soldier were among the dead, according to the Department of Defense.
Nearly all of them were in their early 20s, meaning they had been just young children when U.S. forces first entered Afghanistan in 2001.
The deceased include at least one of the Marines — recently promoted Marine Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23 — who were seen in widely circulated photos cuddling Afghan infants they had temporarily rescued from the crush of the crowds outside the airport gates this month.
More stories of some of the victims and the people who are mourning can be found below.
- Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah
- Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosariopichardo, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts
- Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, of Sacramento, California
- Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, California
- Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, of Omaha, Nebraska
- Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Indiana
- Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas
- Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, of St. Charles, Missouri
- Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyoming
- Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, California
- Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California
- Navy Hospitalman Maxton W. Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio
- Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tennessee
Eighteen other U.S. service members were wounded in Thursday's bombing.
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Rylee McCollum, 20
Rylee McCollum, a Marine and native of Bondurant, Wyoming, was married and his wife is expecting a baby in three weeks, his sister, Cheyenne McCollum, said.
"He was so excited to be a dad, and he was going to be a great dad," McCollum said. She said her brother "was a Marine before he knew he was allowed to be a Marine... He’d carry around his toy rifle and wear his sister’s pink princess snow boots and he’d either be hunting or he was a Marine. Sometimes it would be with nothing on underneath, just a T-shirt."
McCollum said her brother wanted to be a history teacher and a wrestling coach once he completed his service. Another sister, Roice McCollum, told the Casper Star-Tribune that her brother was on his first deployment when the evacuation in Afghanistan began.
"We want to make sure that people know that these are the kids that are sacrificing themselves, and he’s got a family who loves him and a wife who loves him and a baby that he’ll never get to meet," Cheyenne McCollum said.
Regi Stone, the father of one of Rylee McCollum’s friends, described McCollum as "a good kid," who was resilient, smart and courageous. Stone shared a note that his wife, Kim, sent to their son Eli Stone, who is also in the military and deployed elsewhere. In the note, Kim wrote that she remembered telling the friends to run the other way if they had to go in first and that both of them said, "If we die doing this, we die doing what we love."
RELATED: US airstrike kills 2 Islamic State members following deadly Kabul airport attack
Kareem Mae'Lee Grant Nikoui, 20
Lance Corporal Kareem Mae’Lee Grant Nikoui, of Norco, California, sent videos to his family hours before he died, showing himself interacting with children in Afghanistan. In one of the clips, he asked a young boy to say hello.
"Want to take a video together buddy?" Nikoui said, leaning in to take a video of himself with the boy. "All right, we’re heroes now, man."
Close family friend Paul Arreola said the videos show "the heart of this young man, the love he has."
"The family is just heartbroken," he said. Arreola described Nikoui as an "amazing young man" full of promise who always wanted to be a Marine and set out to achieve his goal. He is survived by his parents and three siblings.
"He loved this country and everything we stand for. It’s just so hard to know that we’ve lost him," he said, crying.
Nikoui was also in the JROTC, and the Norco High School Air Force JROTC posted on Facebook that he was "one of our best Air Force JROTC cadets" and that "Kareem was set on being a Marine & always wanted to serve his country."
The city of Norco said Friday in a post on social media that Nikoui's name will be enshrined on a memorial wall in the city.
Jared Schmitz, 20
Marine Lance Corporal Jared Schmitz grew up in the St. Louis area and was among a group of Marines sent back to Afghanistan to assist with evacuation efforts, his father, Mark Schmitz, told KMOX Radio.
Mark Schmitz said his son always wanted to be a Marine. He said he learned of his son's death when the Marines came to his home in Wentzville, Missouri, at 2:40 a.m. Friday.
"This was something he always wanted to do, and I never seen a young man train as hard as he did to be the best soldier he could be," Schmitz said of his 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."
SANDY, UT - AUGUST 27: An American flag and yellow ribbon sit outside the house of Darren Hoover, whose son, Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover was killed in Afghanistan, on August 27, 2021 in Sandy, Utah. Hoover was one of the 13 U.S. service members killed o
Taylor Hoover, 31
Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, of Utah, had been in the Marines for 11 years and was remembered as a hero who died serving others, his father Darin Hoover said.
"He is a hero. He gave his life protecting those that can’t protect themselves, doing what he loved serving his country," said Darin Hoover, who lives in a Salt Lake City suburb.
He said he heard from Marines throughout the day Friday who said they are grateful they had his son as their sergeant.
"They look back on him and say that they’ve learned so much from him," Darin Hoover said. "One heck of a leader."
His father said his son was also a best friend to his two sisters and loved all his extended family. He had a girlfriend in California and was the kind of guy who "lit up a room" when he came in, his father said.
Nate Thompson of Murray, Utah, first met Hoover when they were 10 years old in Little League football. They stayed friends through high school, where Hoover played lineman. He was undersized for the position, but his heart and hard work more than made up for what he lacked in statute, Thompson said. As a friend, he was selfless and kind.
"If we had trouble with grades, trouble with family or trouble on the field, we always called Taylor. He’s always level-headed, even if he’s struggling himself," he said.
Daegan William-Tyeler Page, 23
Corporal Daegan William-Tyeler Page served in the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment based at Camp Pendleton, California, and planned to go to trade school and possibly become a lineman after his enlistment ended, his family said in a statement.
Page was raised in Red Oak, Iowa, and in the Omaha metro area and joined the Marines after graduating from Millard South High School. He is mourned by his girlfriend, parents, stepmom and stepdad, four siblings and grandparents, the family said in a statement released by a family friend. The statement said the family did not wish to speak to the media at this time.
"Daegan will always be remembered for his tough outer shell and giant heart," the statement said. "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."
Ryan Knauss, 23
Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss was remembered as a motivated man who loved his country and was looking forward to coming back to the U.S. and eventually moving to Washington, D.C., family members told WATE-TV in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Knauss’ grandfather, Wayne Knauss, told the television station that the family received word of Knauss's death on Friday, and funeral services were being planned. Knauss said his grandson attended Gibbs High School and grew up in a Christian home.
"A motivated young man who loved his country," Wayne Knauss said. "He was a believer, so we will see him again in God’s heaven."
Stepmother Linnae Knauss said Ryan planned to move to Washington after he returned to the U.S.
"He was a super-smart hilarious young man," she said.
Hunter Lopez, 22
Hunter Lopez, whose parents work at the Riverside County Sheriff's Department in Southern California, was a sheriff's Explorer for three years before joining the Marine Corps in September 2017, Sheriff Chad Bianco said.
Bianco said Lopez planned to follow in his parents' footsteps and become a Riverside County Sheriff's Deputy after his deployment.
David Lee Espinoza, 20
Lance Corporal David Lee Espinoza, a Marine from Laredo, Texas, joined the military after high school, and was being remembered as a hero by his mother.
"He was just brave enough to go do what he wanted and to help out people. That’s who he was, he was just perfect," his mother, Elizabeth Holguin. told the Laredo Morning Times.
Espinoza's death was confirmed earlier by U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar. The congressman's press secretary, Dana Youngentob, said Pentagon representatives visited Cuellar’s Washington office to inform him of Espinoza's death. Cuellar’s office also received an official death notice from the Pentagon.
In a statement, Cuellar said Espinoza "embodied the values of America: grit, dedication, service, and valor. When he joined the military after high school, he did so with the intention of protecting our nation and demonstrating his selfless acts of service."
Cuellar concluded, "The brave never die. Mr. Espinoza is a hero."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.