Marines, Service Members Killed in Afghanistan: Names, Photos & Tributes
Who were the Marines and service members killed in Afghanistan? Rylee McCollum was about to become a young father in only three weeks and wanted to be a Marine as long as anyone could remember, even toting around a rifle in his diapers. Jared Schmitz was remembered as a “true American hero.” Serving his country was “something he’s always wanted to do, and I’ve never seen a young man train as hard as he did to be the best soldier he can be.
Max Soviak was a Navy corpsman from Ohio whose sister described him on Instagram as “…my beautiful, intelligent, beat-to-the-sound of his own drum, annoying, charming baby brother was killed yesterday helping to save lives. he was a f***ing medic. there to help people. and now he is gone and my family will never be the same….he was just a kid.
David Lee Espinoza was described as a “brave young man from Laredo, Texas.”
Kareem Nikoui was a young Marine from California whose dad told Daily Beast he “really loved that [Marine Corps] family. 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.”
They were among the 13 U.S. Marines and service members who lost their lives in the Kabul, Afghanistan, attack on August 26, 2021. Heavy is committed to running a tribute and photo for each. You will see those tributes and pictures below, and we are adding more as they are identified.
President Joe Biden said in a news conference that the dead service members were “standing guard at the airport…These American service members who gave their lives are… heroes.. engaged in the selfless mission to save the lives of others.” However, some of the parents of the service members were very upset by how their children died. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Asked by the radio host in St. Louis what message he wanted Americans to remember, Mark Schmitz, Jared’s dad, said: “Be afraid of our leadership or lack thereof. Pray every day for the soldiers who 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.”
The Daily Beast reported that Steve Nikoui, a Trump supporter and Kareem’s dad, expressed anger toward President Biden, saying, “They sent my son over there as a paper pusher and then had the Taliban outside providing security. I blame my own military leaders… Biden turned his back on him. That’s it.”
Here is a tribute and photo of each hero, added as they are released:
Rylee McCollum, Wyoming: ‘The Definition of Courage’
Rylee McCollum, of Bondurant, Wyoming, was remembered as “the definition of courage.”
Chi McCollum, his sister, wrote on Facebook, “Rylee James. My heart is completely shattered. I love you so much. You are my hero and you were going to be the best dad. I love you, I love you, I love you… Semper Fi.”
On August 19, she wrote, “I’m thankful everyday you are my brother. Stay safe, we love you. Can’t wait for your return and to meet my niece or nephew. Love you Brotato 💗🇺🇸🦅⚓️🌎” He was from Bondurant, Wyoming.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of this brave Marine,” Regi Stone wrote on Facebook.
“When it comes to the definition of courage, Rylee Mccollum is it. We were fortunate to have him in our home in Wyoming many times as he and Eli were getting ready to enlist together. They kept each other out of trouble, which wasn’t easy, because they were both so ready to serve their country. One evening as we were all having dinner, Kim tried giving her best motherly advice and suggested that they let someone else go in first if the time ever came. Without hesitating, they both said, “if anything ever happens to us, just know, we were doing what we loved. We’re heartbroken but proud to have known this brave hero. Please pray for his family, his wife and new baby that will be born soon. And, let’s keep all his Marine brothers in our prayer. Semper Fi.”
Wyoming’s Governor Mark Gordon confirmed McCollum’s death on Facebook.
“I’m devastated to learn Wyoming lost one of our own in yesterday’s terrorist attack in Kabul, Afghanistan,” he wrote.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of U.S. Marine Rylee McCollum of Bondurant. Jennie and I, along with all of Wyoming and the entire nation, thank Rylee for his service.”
The Casper Star-Tribune reported that Rylee McCollum was on his first deployment for the evacuation and was manning a checkpoint at the airport when he died.
His older sister, Roice McCollum, told the newspaper that he was expecting a baby in three weeks.
“He wanted to be a Marine his whole life and carried around his rifle in his diapers and cowboy boots,” McCollum’s sister said. “He was determined to be in infantry… Rylee wanted to be a history teacher and a wrestling coach when he finished serving his country. He’s a tough, kind, loving kid who made an impact on everyone he met. His joke and wit brought so much joy.”
She added: “Rylee will always be a hero not just for the ultimate sacrifice he made for our country, but for the way he impacted every life around him for the better. Making us stronger, kinder, teaching us to love deeper.”
Rylee’s sister Chi wrote on Facebook, “My hero, Our hero, an American f***ing hero. I love you.”
Kareem Nikoui, California: ‘He Was Going to Make a Career Out of This’
Nikoui’s father, Steve, a California carpenter, told Daily Beast, “I stayed home from work yesterday because there was that attack and I knew he was there. So all day, I was glued to the TV.” He knew it would take about eight hours to tell him if his son was among the dead, and horribly, around 7:15 p.m. PT, “these young men walked up,” he said.
He told Daily Beast, those Marines were “more choked up than me,” Nikoui said. “I was actually trying to console them. But at the same time, I just wanted them to get out as soon as possible so that no one from my family came back and saw them. I thought it appropriate that I be able to tell them.”
“I haven’t gone to bed all night,” Nikoui continued to the publication. “I’m still in shock. I haven’t been able to grasp everything that’s going on.”
Kareem “loved what he was doing, he always wanted to be a Marine,” said Nikoui to Daily Beast. He was initially stationed at Camp Pendleton and often brought fellow Marines home for the holidays.
“He really loved that [Marine Corps] family. 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,” the father said.
The Daily Beast reported that the father, a Trump supporter, expressed anger toward President Biden, saying, “They sent my son over there as a paper pusher and then had the Taliban outside providing security. I blame my own military leaders… Biden turned his back on him. That’s it.”
A woman wrote on Facebook, “We lost a member of our Norco family yesterday. My friends grandson was one of the Marines killed in Kabul…Kareem Nikoui you are our hero and a hero to so many you were helping. Godspeed Marine! We thank you for your ultimate sacrifice and we will not forget you.”
Jared Schmitz, Missouri: ‘True American Hero’
Jared Schmitz, 20, was identified by his father in a St. Louis radio interview as one of the 13 U.S. Marines and service members who died in the attacks in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 26, 2021. He was remembered as a “true American hero” who had always wanted to serve his country.
Speaking to St. Louis Today radio, Mark Schmitz emotionally paid tribute to his son, who was from the St. Louis, Missouri, area, saying that serving in the Armed Forces was “something he’s always wanted to do, and I’ve never seen a young man train as hard as he did to be the best soldier he can be. That’s a big part of why we are all obviously devastated and sad, but there’s so much anger right now because he wasn’t even given that opportunity to demonstrate all the skills he had protected and learned while in the Corps, and he took his job very seriously. Someone came along took the easy way out and ended everything for him and for us. And the others who were killed.”
State Rep. Nick Schroer wrote on Facebook, “Today please pray for Lance Corporal Jared Schmitz who paid the ultimate sacrifice yesterday serving our nation. This young marine was from St. Charles County and is a true American hero. Keep his family in your prayers today. Thank you for your service young man! God Bless you and your family, Marine.”
Heavy reached out to Jared’s father to see if the family wanted to say more, and he said they would be sending out a release soon.
Schmitz told St. Louis Today’s Carol Daniels: “I was able to talk to him this morning, his son was killed in yesterday’s explosion. Marines came by at 2:30 in the morning to give the horrific news. They are supposed to come back today to follow up on more details, what happens next, details I am assuming, I don’t know a lot but unfortunately our son was one of the 13 casualties yesterday.”
Schmitz said Jared had only been in Afghanistan for two weeks.
“He was stationed in Jordan on his first deployment and then when things got a little hairy over in Afghanistan, he was one of the 6,000 or so troops that was called in.”
The father said that he and his wife were concerned when they found out Jared would be going to Afghanistan. “We knew this was something he trained for and was looking forward to participating in,” he said. “He was not the type that liked to sit around and get his four years in and walk away.”
He added, “He wanted to be in a situation where he actually made a difference in what his role was within the Marine Corps; he was excited to get that opportunity. As his parents, of course we were terrified. I don’t have words for how upset we are and I am sure he is as well, This is just absolutely devastating
Mark Schmitz said that his son graduated from high school in 2019 and as a Marine in October 2020. He was a Lance Corporal.
“He was probably one of the coolest unique individuals I’ve ever met. Very honored, I can call him my son,” the father said, becoming emotional during the radio interview.
“His life meant so much more and so incredibly devastated that I won’t be able to see the man that he was very quickly growing into becoming.”
Max Soviak, Ohio: ‘Helping to Save Lives’
Soviak’s sister Marilyn posted on Instagram, that her “baby brother was killed yesterday helping to save lives.”
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. he was a f***ing medic. there to help people. and now he is gone and my family will never be the same. there is a large Maxton sized hole that will never be filled. he was just a kid. we are sending kids over there to die. kids with families that now have holes just like ours. i’m not one for praying but damn could those kids over there use some right now. my heart is in pieces and I don’t think they’ll ever fit back right again.
Max Soviak was a Navy corpsman. He was a medic in the U.S. Navy, and was a native of Berlin Heights, Ohio, according to Fox 8.
“Max was full of life in everything he did,” Edison Local Schools said in a statement to the television station. He was killed at the airport’s Abbey Gate.
“He was well respected and liked by everyone who knew him,” the district said.
U.S. Senator Rob Portman wrote, “Jane and I are heartbroken by the death of Max Soviak, a Navy Fleet Marine Force Hospital Corpsman from Berlin Heights, who lost his life in the service of his country. He was a hero who died serving with his Marine brothers helping to save fellow countrymen and our Afghan allies. We mourn his loss and are praying for his family and friends.”
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost tweeted, “Max Soviak was one of ours, a 2017 graduate of Edison High School. Each one who died had a hometown where they were known—classmates, friends, family. Familiar places they should’ve been able to return to as they grew older sights and sounds and memories. They did not die as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans, self-sacrificially serving others in the face of danger. Let us honor them.”
David Lee Espinoza, Texas: ‘A Brave Young Man’
David Lee Espinoza was a Marine. The City of Laredo, Texas, wrote on Facebook, “The City of Laredo expresses its most heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of U.S. Marine David Lee Espinoza, a brave young man from Laredo, Texas. Thank you for your service to the United States of America and Laredo. Your acts of courage and bravery will always be remembered in our community.