Several troops killed in Kabul blast were just babies when US invaded

Several of the 13 American military personnel killed in the suicide bombing at Kabul airport on Thursday were not even a year old when the US invaded Afghanistan in late 2001.

US forces are withdrawing after nearly 20 years in the country. The bombing, claimed by a local Islamic State group, happened as a mass evacuation effort continued. Soveel as 170 Afghans were killed. Two British nationals and the child of a British national also died.

Details of the 11 US marines, one soldier and one sailor lost in the country’s deadliest day in Afghanistan in a decade began to emerge on Friday and Saturday.

Some had not long graduated from high school, were recently married or were about to become fathers.

L/Cpl Rylee McCollum, 20, was a marine from Bondurant, Wyoming, whose wife is expecting a baby in three weeks’ time, his sister told reporters. Rylee always knew he wanted to join the marines, Cheyenne McCollum added, recalling a time when he was a toddler and the war in Afghanistan was just beginning.

'[Hy] was a marine before he knew he was allowed to be a marine,” McCollum said. “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.

“He was so excited to be a dad, and he was going to be a great dad.”

L/Cpl Kareem Mae’Lee Grant Nikoui, 20, a marine from Norco, Kalifornië, was an air force cadet at high school. Hours before his death, he sent home videos of himself interacting with children in Afghanistan. One of the clips, family friend Paul Arreola said, showed Nikoui talking with a small boy.

“Want to take a video together, buddy?” Nikoui says. “All right, we’re heroes now, man.”

Arreola said Nikoui “loved this country and everything we stand for. It’s just so hard to know that we’ve lost him.”

Another marine, L/Cpl Jared Schmitz, 20, of St Louis, Missouri, had only been in Afghanistan a few days to assist with the evacuation effort.

“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,” his father, Mark Schmitz, told KMOX radio.

L/Cpl David Lee Espinoza, 20, joined the marines from high school in Laredo, Texas.

“He was brave enough to go do what he wanted and to help out people. He was just perfect,” his mother, Elizabeth Holguin, told the Laredo Morning Times.

US congressman Henry Cuellar said Espinoza “embodied the values of America: grit, dedication, service, and valour. Mr Espinoza is a hero. The brave never die.”

Cpl Hunter Lopez, 22, of Riverside county, Kalifornië, joined the marines four years ago and planned to follow his parents, both sheriff’s deputies, into law enforcement when discharged.

Navy medic Maxton Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio, was a state champion wrestler at high school and one of 13 siblings, het sy familie gesê.

“He just enjoyed life,” said Thomas Roth, superintendent of the Edison local school district. “He was full of life. He was a good kid, a good student and people just enjoyed being around him.”

SSgt Ryan Knauss, 23, of Knoxville, Tennessee, planned to move to Washington DC after his deployment, family members told WATE TV.

Knauss was “a motivated young man who loved his country”, said his grandfather, Wayne Knauss. “He was a believer, so we will see him again in God’s heaven.”

Animal lover Daegan Page, 23, who was raised in Red Oak, Iowa, would be remembered for “his tough outer shell and giant heart”, his family said in a statement.

Cpl Page had plans to go to trade school after leaving the military, and leaves a girlfriend, parents, stepmom and stepdad, four siblings and grandparents, the statement said.

“Our hearts are broken,” it said, “but we are thankful for the friends and family who are surrounding us during this time.”

One of the older victims was SSgt Taylor Hoover, 31, of Utah, who had been in the marines for 11 jare.

His father, Darin Hoover, gesê: “He is a hero. He gave his life protecting those that can’t protect themselves, doing what he loved serving his country.” He said his son, who had a girlfriend in California, was a best friend to his two sisters and was the kind of person who “lit up a room”.




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