Our Heroes, the US service members murdered by a terrorist in Kabul


David L. Espinoza, 20, Texas, “He was just perfect”

Marine Corps Lance Corporal David L. Espinoza, a Marine from Laredo, Texas, joined the military after high school and was 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.

Nicole L. Gee, 23, California, she loved her job.

Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee is a native of Sacramento, Calif. In an Instagram account that apparently belongs to her, Gee posted a photo on Aug. 21, five days before the terrorist attack, showing her holding a baby. “I love my job,” she wrote.

Another Instagram post—which is also the last one before her death—shows her evacuating Afghans to the airplane.

Darin T. Hoover, 31, Utah, “he is a hero”

Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Darin T. 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 Sr. 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 Sr., 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 Sr. 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.

Ryan C. Knauss, 23, Tennessee, he “loved his country” and God

Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss was remembered as a motivated man who loved his country and was looking forward to coming back to the United States and eventually moving to Washington, family members told WATE-TV in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Knauss’ grandfather, Wayne Knauss, told the television station that he “loved his country.”

“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 United States.

“He was a super-smart hilarious young man,” she said.

Rylee J. McCollum, 20, Wyoming, “If we die doing this, we die doing what we love.”

Marine Corps Lance Corporal Rylee J. 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.”

Rylee’s wife Kim said the two friends said, “If we die doing this, we die doing what we love.”

Dylan R. Merola, 20, California, he “would always be there for his friends”

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola is a native of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

“Dylan loved doing stage set up and technical theater at Los Osos High School in Rancho Cucamonga. He was the kind of person who would always be there for his friends and just enjoyed hanging out with family for family cook nights. They would hike, fish, kayak and spend time just being together. He will be truly missed and always in our hearts,” Merola’s uncle said in a statement obtained by NBC Los Angeles.

Hunter Lopez, 22, California, he wanted to become a sheriff

Marine Corps Corporal 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.

Sgt. Johanny Rosariopichardo, a “kind heart”

Lawrence School Committee member Jonathan Guzman said Rosariopichardo was “a wonderful person with a kind heart.”

“It hurts to see a classmate, a friend, an LHS alumni, a young lady, a proud Lawrencian, a wonderful person with a kind heart taken from this world by the hands of hatred!” Guzman wrote in a Facebook post. “Johanny Rosario, your city will honor you! That is a promise! Thank you for your patriotic service! My heart goes out to your family during this unwelcome event, as well as the other 12 soldiers who died in Afghanistan.”

Humberto A. Sanchez, Indiana, we will “never forget”

Marine Corps Corporal Humberto A. Sanchez from Logansport, Indiana, was a graduate of Logansport High School, WLWT News reported.

“We’re forever indebted to the service men and women who risk it all to protect others,” the school district tweeted. “We will never forget the names of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

Maxton W. Soviak, 22, Ohio, “Liked by everyone who knew him”

U.S. Navy Hospitalman Maxton W. Soviak from Berlin Heights, Ohio, was a graduate of Edison High School.

Edison High School Superintendent Thomas C. Roth said Maxton was “well respected and liked by everyone who knew him.”

“Max was full of life in everything he did. Our schools and local community are mourning the loss of Max. He and his family are in all of our thoughts and prayers,” he wrote in a letter obtained by Action News.

Jared M. Schmitz, 20, Missouri, wanted to “be the best soldier he could be”

Marine Corps Lance Corporal Jared M. 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.”

Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, California, “the heart of this young man, the love he has”

Marine Corps Lance Corporal Kareem M. 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.

Daegan W. Page, 23, Nebraska, 

Marine Corps Corporal Daegan W. Page served in the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment based at Camp Pendleton, California, and planned to go to a 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, Nebraska, 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.”

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