Stories Of The Us Service Members Killed In Kabul

The identities of the 13 US service members killed in an explosion outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, started to emerge on Friday. Among them was a soon-to-be father, young men who always dreamed of serving in the military, and brothers who were viewed as heroes by their siblings.

Dozens of Afghan civilians were also killed in the suicide bombing that was believed to have been carried out by ISIS, US officials said. It was the most US service members killed by hostile forces in Afghanistan on a single day since 2011.

The Department of Defense has not yet released the names of those killed in the attack, but family and friends have started to confirm their identities on social media and in news reports.

Here’s what we know of them so far:

Max Soviak

Maxton “Max” Soviak was a Navy corpsman in his early 20s from Berlin Heights, Ohio.

His sister Marilyn described him as her “beautiful, intelligent, beat-to-the-sound of his own drum, annoying, charming baby brother,” in a post on Instagram, saying that he was in Kabul to help people.

“Now he is gone and my family will never be the same,” she wrote. “There is a large Maxton sized hole that will never be filled.”

His brother Griffin told BuzzFeed News he wanted people to know that Max was “a good man.”

On his Instagram page, Max Soviak described himself as a patriot. His last post in June was a photo of him and two fellow service members, including Marine Hunter Lopez, who was also identified as among those killed in the attack, dressed in their uniforms and gear. In the caption, Soviak wrote, “It’s kill or be killed, definitely trynna be on the kill side.”

“My brother was my hero, and I know he is watching over my family in our time of grief,” Griffin Soviak said in an Instagram message. “I’m devastated to say the least.”

David Lee Espinoza, 20

#BREAKING: The family of Laredoan David Lee Espinoza has given us permission to share his picture. He was enlisted in the U.S Marines. Espinoza was one of the 13 U.S Service members killed in the attack at the Kabul Airport. #Laredo #Afghanistan #KabulAiport

04:00 PM – 27 Aug 2021

Twitter: @AlexCanoNews

David Lee Espinoza, 20, of Laredo, Texas, served with the US Marines since at least 2019.

On Facebook, his mom, Elizabeth Holguin, posted effusively about Espinoza joining the military, calling herself a “proud Marine mom.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he ordered flags to be lowered to honor service members killed in Kabul, identifying Espinoza as among those killed.

“These heroes should never be forgotten,” Abbott tweeted.

Rylee McCollum, 20

Rylee McCollum, a 20-year-old Marine from Wyoming, was expecting a baby in three weeks with his wife, Jiennah Crayton. On Facebook, McCollum’s sister, Roice, wrote that Rylee “wanted to be a Marine his whole life” and was sent to Afghanistan when the evacuation began.

Rylee’s father, ​​Jim McCollum, told the New York Times that Rylee was “guarding a checkpoint when the explosion tore through the main gate where thousands of civilians have been clamoring to escape the country’s new Taliban rulers.”

Chi McCollum, another one of Rylee’s sisters, wrote on Facebook that he was her hero.

Jill Miller Crayton, Rylee McCollum’s mother-in-law, wrote on Facebook that even though she never got to meet Rylee, she will meet her grandchild soon and she will “love and spoil that baby forever.”

Jared Schmitz, 20

Jared Schmitz, 20, from St. Louis, Missouri, was sent to Afghanistan to help with the evacuation efforts, his father, Mark Schmitz, told KMOX.

“His life meant so much more,” Mark Schmitz told the outlet. “I’m so incredibly devastated that I won’t be able to see the man that he was very quickly growing into becoming.”

Hunter Lopez, 22

Hunter Lopez, a 22-year-old Marine from Southern California, joined the Marine Corps in 2017, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, where his parents, Capt. Herman Lopez and Deputy Alicia Lopez, work.

A former scout with the sheriff’s explorer program, Hunter Lopez planned to follow in his parents’ footsteps and join the sheriff’s department after returning from Afghanistan.

“Like his parents who serve our community, being a Marine to Hunter wasn’t a job; it was a calling,” the Riverside Sheriff’s Association said in a statement. “He loved his family, and as we grieve for Hunter and his fellow Marines taken from us too soon, there are simply no words to express how deeply he will be missed — Semper Fi.”

Kareem Nikoui, 20

Kareem Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California, always wanted to be a Marine, his father, Steve Nikoui, told the Daily Beast. He was stationed near home at Camp Pendleton, making it easy for him to visit his family on the weekends. He’d often bring along friends from the base for a home-cooked meal.

“He really loved that [Marine Corps] family,” Steve Nikoui said. “He was devoted — he was going to make a career out of this, and he wanted to go. No hesitation for him to be called to duty.”

His mother, Shana Chappell, shared the last photo Kareem sent of himself in Afghanistan in an Instagram post, saying she was “still in shock.”

“I felt my soul leave my body as i was screaming that it can’t be true! No mother, no parent should ever have to hear that their child is gone,” Chappell wrote. “This is my baby Kareem. He was so amazing in every way.”

According to the city of Norco, Nikoui served in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. The city said in a statement that his name would be added to Norco’s George A. Ingalls Veterans Memorial Plaza, which honors residents who died during their service.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates and follow BuzzFeed News on Twitter.