September 19, 2021

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What we know about US service members killed in Kabul airport attack – ABC News

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Thirteen American troops were among the nearly 200 people killed in an attack at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan on Thursday.

A detonation set off by an ISIS-K suicide bomber near the airport’s Abbey Gate amid evacuation efforts killed at least 170 Afghans, including several children, as well as two Brits and a child of a British citizen, according to Afghan and British officials.

President Joe Biden called the U.S. service members killed in the attack “heroes who have been engaged in a dangerous, selfless mission to save the lives of others.”

Those killed included 11 Marines, as well as an Army soldier and a Navy medic, U.S. officials said.

“Those warriors who died gave their lives to save thousands of men, women and children, Americans and Afghans alike,” Adm. Mike Gilday, the chief of naval operations, said in a statement. “Their courage and selflessness represent the highest ideals of America. We pay solemn tribute to their sacrifice.”

The names of the service members are being released 24 hours after next-of-kin notifications, though some of those killed have been identified by family and officials. Here’s what we know about them so far.

Navy Medic Max Soviak

Navy Fleet Marine Force Hospital Corpsman Max Soviak, of Ohio, was “very proud” to serve his country, his mother said in a statement to ABC News.

“He was very passionate about helping his fellow Americans and trying to get them home safely,” Rachel Soviak said. “There are no words to describe the pain our family is feeling. There will forever be a hole in our hearts.”

The family is praying for the troops to arrive home safely, she said.

Max Soviak was a 2017 graduate of Edison High School in Milan, Ohio. School leaders remembered him as “full of life in everything he did.”

“Max was a good student who was active in sports and other activities throughout his school career,” Superintendent Thomas Roth said in a statement. “He was well respected and liked by everyone who knew him.”

Marine David Espinoza

Marine David Espinoza was a native of Laredo, Texas, according to Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas, who released a statement confirming his death.

“Mr. Espinoza embodied the values of America: grit, dedication, service, and valor,” Cuellar said. “When he joined the military after high school, he did so with the intention of protecting our nation and demonstrating his selfless acts of service.”

Espinoza graduated from Lyndon B. Johnson High School in Laredo in 2019 and is survived by his brother, mother and stepfather, Cuellar’s office said.

Marine Rylee McCollum

Rylee McCollum, 20, of Bondurant, Wyoming, knew he was going to be a Marine “his whole life,” his sister, Cheyenne McCollum, told “Good Morning America” Friday.

The youngest of four siblings, he was a “funny kid” who was “too smart for his own good.”

He had an “immense love” for the U.S. and enlisted the day he turned 18, his father, Jim McCollum, told “GMA.”

“To see him do something that he believed in so deeply, I couldn’t be more proud,” his father said. “He’s a hero, I love him.”

Rylee McCollum was a dad-to-be himself; his wife is due in September, his father said.

“He was hoping to come back right around the time the baby was born,” Jim McCollum said. “He was excited. He would have been a great father.”

The family said they’re hoping it’s a boy.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon had earlier confirmed Rylee McCollum was one of the victims, saying on Twitter he was “devastated to learn Wyoming lost one of our own.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Rylee McCollum of Bondurant,” he said.

Marine Kareem Nikoui

Marine Kareem Nikoui was among those killed in the attack, ABC News has confirmed.

Nikoui “always wanted to be a Marine,” his father, Steve Nikoui, a carpenter in California, told the Daily Beast.

“He was devoted — he was going to make a career out of this, and he wanted to go,” Nikoui told the outlet. “No hesitation for him to be called to duty.”

In an Instagram post, his mother shared a photo of Nikoui taken Sunday outside Kabul airport, writing, “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, that their child was one of the Marines killed today!”

Marine Hunter Lopez

Marine Cpl. Hunter Lopez was the son of two members of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in Southern California — Capt. Herman Lopez and Deputy Alicia Lopez — the department said.

The 22-year-old planned on “following his parents’ footsteps” and becoming a deputy himself upon returning home from his deployment, Sheriff Chad Bianco said in a Facebook post announcing his death.

As a teen, Lopez was a Riverside Sheriff’s Explorer Scout with the Palm Desert Station. After graduating from La Quinta High School, he joined the Marine Corps in September 2017, Bianco said.

“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.”

His family is requesting all donations be made to the Riverside County Deputy Sheriff Relief Foundation in their name.

Marine Ryan Knauss

Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee, and attended Gibbs High School. The 23-year-old planned to move to Washington, D.C., after he returned to the states, his stepmother, Linnae Knauss, told Nashville ABC affiliate WKRN.

“He grew up in a Christian home, attended Berean Christian school through eighth grade and spent four years at Gibbs High,” his grandfather, Wayne Knauss, told WKRN. “A motivated young man who loved his country. He was a believer so we will see him again in God’s heaven.”

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said she was praying for his family “during this time of unimaginable pain and loss.”

“Ryan embodies American heroism — saving people he had never met before, in the face of persistent evil,” Blackburn wrote on Twitter. “We will never forget his sacrifice in service to his country. While no words could ever be enough, I join Tennesseans — and all Americans — in extending my deepest condolences to Ryan’s family.”

U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett confirmed Knauss’ death as well.

“Ryan gave his life outside that airport helping people he didn’t know get to safety,” Burchett, who represents Tennessee’s 2nd District, said in a statement. “This is what true heroism looks like and Ryan’s sacrifice will never be forgotten. The Knauss family is in my prayers.”

Marine Jared Schmitz

Marine Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20, was a native of Wentzville, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis.

“On behalf of all Missourians, we want to honor Lance Corporal Jared Schmitz for his sacrifice and recognize his service to our nation in the defense of freedom,” Missouri Gov. Mike Parson wrote on Twitter. “He put his life on the line protecting our service members and allies. He made the ultimate sacrifice for his bravery.”

Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt said, “Lance Corporal Jared Schmitz lost his life as he bravely and selflessly worked to save others. He is a hero – to our state, our country, and all the people he helped get to safety. My gratitude and prayers are with his family and fellow Marines.”

The Troy, Missouri, Police Department wrote of Schmitz: “We are extending our thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of Lance Corporal Jared Schmitz of Wentzville Missouri. Lance Corporal Schmitz paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving at Hamid Karzai International airport in Afghanistan. Lance Corporal Schmitz your heroism and bravery will never be forgotten.”

ABC News’ Alondra Valle and Zunaira Zaki contributed to this report.

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