Thirteen American service members were killed in a suicide bombing at the Kabul, Afghanistan, airport on Thursday as they screened Afghans desperate to flee the Taliban regime that has regained control of the country.
President Joe Biden called the military members heroes, representing the best of America, working selflessly to help others escape.
They were part of the bravest, most capable, most selfless military on the face of the Earth," Biden said. "And they were part of simply what I call the backbone of America. They're the spine of America, the best the country has to offer."
The blast took place at the Abbey Gate as would-be evacuees were searched, leaving scores dead and injured. An Afghan offshoot of the Islamic State took responsibility.
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Biden vowed retribution, saying, "We will hunt you down."
Here are the military members who died. Eleven were U.S. Marines, one was a Navy corpsman and one was a soldier. The Pentagon identified them on Saturday.
A week before she was killed, Sgt. Nicole Gee cradled a baby in her arms at the Kabul airport, AP wrote. She posted the photo on Instagram and wrote, “I love my job.”
U.S. & World
Gee, 23, of Sacramento, California, was a maintenance technician with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
Sgt. Mallory Harrison, who lived with Gee for three years, wrote about the magnitude of her loss.
“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,” Harrison wrote on Facebook. “How her last breath was taken doing what she loved — helping people. … Then there was an explosion. And just like that, she’s gone.”
After confirming U.S. Marine Darin Taylor Hoover's death on Friday, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox ordered flags at half staff until Monday, NBC affiliate KSL reports.
"My heart is broken. I spoke with Staff Sgt. Hoover’s parents today. I told them Utah mourned with them. When I asked how we could help, his dad simply replied, 'Just promise me Utah will never forget my son.' I did. Please help me keep my promise," Cox wrote on Twitter.
Hoover was 31 of Salt Lake City.
Ryan Knauss, a 23-year-old from Tennesee, joined the military soon after graduating Gibbs High school, NBC affiliate WBIR reports.
Knauss' stepmother told the outlet they received news of his death Friday morning, adding that he loved to laugh, loved helping his wife Alena with her garden and loved building things with his hands.
On Twitter, U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., offered condolences.
"This is what true heroism looks like and Ryan’s sacrifice will never be forgotten. The Knauss family is in my prayers," Burchett wrote.
Family members said Knauss, of Corryton, had wanted to be a U.S. Marine since childhood.
Maxton Soviak, 22, was a U.S. Navy corpsman from northern Ohio, who was going to make the Navy his career, his family said.
"Max was a wonderful son who loved his family, his community, and was proud to serve in the U.S. Navy," his family said in a statement. "He was excited about the opportunities the Navy would offer him and planned to make the Navy
a career. We are incredibly proud of his service to our country."
"As we mourn the loss of our son, we also mourn for the loss of the Marines and soldier who were killed and pray for the speedy recovery of all of those wounded in Afghanistan," the statement read. "Words cannot express how heartbroken we are with this news and we will miss Max tremendously."
The family thanked those who had offered support and prayers.
WOIO, Cleveland 19 News, reported that the Berlin Heights native was a 2017 graduate of Edison High School in Milan, Ohio. The Edison schools superintendent, Thomas Roth, remembered Soviak as a good student who was well-liked and active in sports.
“Max was full of life in everything he did,” Roth told WOIO.
David Lee Espinoza
U.S. Marine David Lee Espinoza was from Rio Bravo, Texas, south of Laredo where he was born, KGNS TV reported.
The 20-year-old attended Lyndon B. Johnson High School in Laredo.
The Laredo Police Department lowered its flag to half staff in his honor. The city and Texas governor praised his bravery.
Rylee McCollum, a Marine from Wyoming whose wife is expecting a baby in three weeks, was on his first deployment when the evacuation in Afghanistan began, his sister, Roice McCollum, told the Casper Star-Tribune.
“He wanted to be a Marine his whole life and carried around his rifle in his diapers and cowboy boots,” Roice McCollum said, according to The Associated Press.
Rylee McCollum, 20, of Jackson, wanted to be a history teacher and wrestling coach when he had completed his service.
“He’s a tough, kind, loving kid who made an impact on everyone he met,” she said.
Regi Stone, the father of one of Rylee McCollum’s friends, described McCollum as “a good kid,” who was resilient, smart and courageous, The AP wrote.
The father of Lance Corporal Jared Schmitz told KMOX Radio that his son was among a group of Marines sent back to Afghanistan to assist with evacuation efforts.
“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,” Mark Schmitz said, according to The Associated Press. “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.”
Jared Schmitz, 20, grew up in the St. Louis area and was from St. Charles.
Lance Corporal Kareem Nikoui graduated from Norco High School in 2019 in Norco, California. He is survived by his mother, father and siblings, according to the city.
"The City of Norco respectfully salutes the service members who paid the ultimate sacrifice in Kabul, Afghanistan, and our thoughts and prayers are with their families during this difficult time," said the city in a statement published on Facebook.
The city said his name will be enshrined on the "Lest We Forget Wall" at the George A. Ingalls Veterans Memorial Plaza that honors residents from Norco who died serving the country.
Corporal Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, in Riverside County, California was the son of a Riverside deputy sheriff and planned to be a county sheriff’s deputy after returning from his current deployment.
"We are heartbroken to hear this sad news about Hunter, who chose to follow a life of service, selflessness, courage and sacrifice, like his parents,” said the Riverside Sheriff's Association in a statement.
Lopez was a Riverside Sheriff's Explorer Scout with the Palm Desert Station from 2014 to 2017, the statement said. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines.
Johanny Rosario, 25, was a Marine sergeant from Lawrence, Massachusetts.
Lawrence Mayor Kendrys Vasquez confirmed the news in a statement, saying "We are heartbroken by the death of the service men and women due to the bombing in Kabul this week. I, and the City of Lawrence, are particularly saddened that one of those brave souls was a daughter of our City."
He said he has been in touch with Rosario's family, who asked she "be recognized as the hero that she was."
Lawrence police posted a message on Facebook early Saturday, saying "Chief Roy Vasque and the Members of the LPD offer our heartfelt condolences to the family of Marine Corp Sgt Johanny Rosario of Lawrence. Sgt. Rosario was tragically killed in Thursday's senseless act of violence at Kabul Airport. She and the other American heroes gave their lives helping others to safety. May they and all the victims of this tragic event rest in peace."
Gov. Charlie Baker also posted a statement on Facebook, saying "Awful news about who died in the suicide bombing in Afghanistan. Lawrence MA high school grad Sgt Johanny Rosario is one of the 11 marines who were killed."
Attorney General Maura Healey said, "USMC Sgt. Johanny Rosario, a daughter of Lawrence, was killed in the suicide bombing in Kabul. Sending my love and prayers to her family and community. We are forever grateful for her service and sacrifice for our country."
Humberto A. Sanchez
Sanchez, 22, was a U.S. Marine Corps corporal from Logansport, Indiana.
"Few among us answer a call of duty so dangerous as Corporal Sanchez volunteered to do," Gov. Eric J. Holcomb said in a statement Saturday, according to NBC News. "In doing so, he made the ultimate sacrifice so others could live and find freedom."
Logansport Mayor Chris Martin said on Facebook that Sanchez "still had his entire life ahead of him."
"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," he said.
Daegan W. Page
Daegan William-Tyeler Page, 23, was a corporal in the U.S. Marines from Nebraska’s 2nd district, state Rep. Don Bacon said in a statement.
"Corporal Page is an American hero who gave the last full measure of devotion," Bacon said. "He served his country honorably, and his service will never be in vain.”
Page graduated from Millard South High School in Omaha. The school remembered him as a "great patriot" in a Facebook tribute and in his family said in a statement provided by the school that he joined the Marines because he "loved the brotherhood" of it, according to NBC News.
"Daegan's girlfriend Jessica, his mom, dad, step-mom, step-dad, 4 siblings and grandparents are all mourning the loss of a great son, grandson and brother," the statement said.
Page was a longtime member of the Boy Scouts who played hockey for a local club and was a huge Chicago Blackhawks fan, his family said. In his spare time, he hunted and spent time outdoors with his father.
After finishing his enlistment, his family said Page planned to attend a local trade school to possibly become a lineman.
"Daegan will always be remembered for his tough outer shell and giant heart," his family said. "Our hearts are broken, but we are thankful for the friends and family who are surrounding us during this time."
Dylan R. Merola
Merola, 20, was a U.S. Marine Corps corporal from Rancho Cucamonga, California.
The 2019 graduate of Los Osos High School was an outdoorsman, his uncle said in a statement to NBC Los Angeles.
"Dylan loved doing stage set up and technical theater at Los Osos High School in Rancho Cucamonga," the uncle said. "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."