Over the weekend, America learned the names, photos, and stories of the 13 service members killed by the ISIS-K suicide bomber at the Kabul airport on Thursday. Some of their friends and families have expressed anger and frustration at the failures of leadership by top military brass and President Joe Biden, resulting in the chaos that placed their loved ones in harm’s way.
Others have chosen to make their comments less specific, simply expressing their grief at lives lost far too soon. All are joined by their whole country in mourning the tragic loss of brave young Americans who rushed toward danger, helping others even in their final moments.
Kathy McCollum directed her anger at Biden for the death of her son Rylee, a 20-year-old Marine lance corporal. “Twenty years and six months old, getting ready to come home from frickin Jordan to be with his wife to watch the birth of his son, and that feckless, dementia-ridden piece of crap just sent my son to die,” she told a radio show over the weekend. “I wanted my son to represent our country, to fight for my country, but I never thought that a feckless piece of crap would send him to his death and smirk on television while he’s talking about people dying with his nasty smirk.”
“This was an unnecessary debacle that could have been handled properly. They had months and months to remove everyone from Afghanistan and they chose not to,” she added. “For every Democrat who cheated or voted for Biden, that left my son in harm’s way and allowed this dementia-ridden piece of crap, who is a treasonous man who just got into office because he was running out of funds for his family, you did this to my son.”
Rylee leaves behind his wife Jiennah Crayton and their unborn baby, who is due at the end of September. When the family met with Biden, everyone but Jiennah left the meeting in protest, but Rylee’s wife was still “disappointed” at the end of the meeting.
“It struck the family as scripted and shallow, a conversation that lasted only a couple of minutes” according to the Washington Post, with what one of Rylee’s sister’s called “total disregard to the loss of our Marine.”
Steve Nikoui said he stayed home from work on Thursday, anxious to hear if his 20-year-old son Kareem, a Marine lance corporal in Kabul, was safe. He received the dreaded knock on the door on Thursday night, informing him that his son was killed in the suicide bomber’s attack.
“They sent my son over there as a paper pusher and then had the Taliban outside providing security,” Nikoui told the Daily Beast. “I blame my own military leaders. … Biden turned his back on him. That’s it.”
“I’m really disappointed in the way that the president has handled this, even more so the way the military has handled it,” Nikoui told Reuters. “The commanders on the ground should have recognized this threat and addressed it.”
In an appearance on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Nikoui added that “the way that the Taliban had pretty much infiltrated the whole country so fast, and we were just kind of, it seemed, left to just this one little airport really concerned me.”
“It was just basically so chaotic and not really planned out,” he said. “Now, I’m a carpenter, and even I could spot that with my untrained military eye.”
Mark Schmitz’s son Jared, 20, was a Marine lance corporal. “Be afraid of our leadership, or lack thereof,” Schmitz told the New York Post. “Pray every day for the soldiers that are putting their lives at risk and doing what they love, which is protecting all of us. I think they’re the only ones that we can honestly say have our backs.”
Jared “took his job very seriously,” Schmitz added. “And somebody just came along and took the easy way out and ended everything for him and for us and for those others that were killed.”
Lance Cpl. Joyner Seaman
Lance Cpl. Joyner Seaman trained with Marine Sgt. Nicole Gee, a 23-year-old who was killed in the attack.
“This withdrawal was conducted improperly,” Seaman told the Daily Beast. “There were veteran military leaders who should have known better.”
He also told the outlet that while his political views tend to be conservative, his views on the withdrawal aren’t dependent on who the president is. “The biggest mistake was pulling out military assets first,” he said. “It was a logistical and tactical planning error.”
Gee is also mourned by her husband Jarod, also a Marine, and her sister Misty, who told the Daily Mail that Gee was “fearless” and “was just absolutely thrilled with the work she was doing in Afghanistan.”
Like Misty, other family members of the fallen have expressed grief at the tragic deaths of their loved ones, while abstaining from making political statements.
The Soviak Family
Twenty-two-year-old Max Soviak was a Navy hospital corpsman. In a tribute on Instagram, a woman who identified herself as his sister Marilyn wrote, “I’ve never been one for politics and i’m not going to start now. What I will say is that my beautiful, intelligent, beat-to-the-sound of his own drum, annoying, charming baby brother was killed yesterday helping to save lives.”
“[H]e was a f-cking medic,” she added. “[H]e was just a kid. [W]e are sending kids over there to die.” An additional statement from the Soviak family expressed their heartbreak, pride in their son’s service to his country, and a wish for privacy as they grieve.
Elizabeth Holguin and Victor Manuel Dominguez
The mother and stepfather of slain 20-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. David Lee Espinoza got a phone call at 2:30 a.m. on Friday morning, informing them of their son’s death.
“I’m proud of him because of what he did,” Elizabeth Holguin said. “As a mother, it’s hard, but he did serve. He did do what he wanted, but it’s hard.” To the parents of other service members overseas, Holguin says, “Just pray, pray, and hopefully they’ll come back.”
Evelena Knauss’s grandson Ryan, an Army staff sergeant, was 23 years old when he lost his life on Thursday. “It shouldn’t have had to happen this way,” Knauss said.
“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 added. “You just don’t think it will be yours, I’m sure that you’ve heard that before.”
Darin Hoover’s son, Taylor, was a 31-year-old Marine staff sergeant from Utah. “He is a hero. He gave his life protecting those that can’t protect themselves, doing what he loved serving his country,” Hoover said.
“This takes your breath and crushes your heart,” added Hoover’s uncle, Billy “BB” Barnett.
Local news reported that Hoover “said he did not want his son’s life tied up in the politics of the evacuation of Afghanistan,” instead simply wanting “everyone to know what a great young man he was.”
Rosalinda Rosario’s older sister, 25-year-old Marine Sgt. Johanny Rosario, was killed while helping screen Afghan women and children.
“We are all in denial. We just can’t grasp this,” Rosalinda said. “I can’t grasp this … to have to receive our hero, our beautiful brave sister.”
“She was my hero,” Rosalinda added. “A hero who died helping people.”
The Lopez Family
Twenty-two-year-old Marine Cpl. Hunter Lopez “has been wanting to be a Marine since he was 10 years old,” his family said in a statement. “When his tour was over, Hunter wanted to continue to serve as a deputy with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. He wanted to be a SWAT officer. He was a badass Marine and a great brother and an awesome son.”
“We are heartbroken to hear this sad news about Hunter, who chose to follow a life of service, selflessness, courage and sacrifice,” added the Riverside Sheriff’s Association.
The Page Family
“Our hearts are broken, but we are thankful for the friends and family who are surrounding us at this time,” said the family of slain 23-year-old Marine Cpl. Daegan Page. “He loved the brotherhood of the Marines and was proud to serve as a member of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.”
“He was one the nicest people I’ve ever met. He was there when you needed him and even when you didn’t. He was the definition of the best friend I’ve ever had,” his friend Cody Highfield added.
Marine Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola was only 20 when he died on Thursday. He was “one of the best kids ever,” said his mother Cheryl Merola. “Kind, loving … he would give anything for anybody.”
“Dylan was a beloved son, brother, grandson, great grandson, nephew, a great friend … who paid the ultimate sacrifice,” said his friend Joseph Matsuoka.
The Sanchez Family
The family of 22-year-old Marine Cpl. Humberto Sanchez hasn’t commented to media outlets, but many in his Indiana community have expressed support for his family and grief at his death.
“This young man had not yet even turned 30 and still had his entire life ahead of him,” wrote Logansport, Indiana Mayor Chris Martin on Facebook. “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.”