Biden is slammed for appearing to check his WATCH during ceremony marking the return of 13 US troops killed in ISIS-K suicide blast in Kabul
- Joe Biden traveled to Dover AFB on Sunday morning as 13 fallen US troops returned home from Kabul
- They were all killed in an ISIS-K suicide attack on Kabul airport that killed around 170 people
- While overseeing the ‘dignified transfer’ of the fallen troops onto US soil he appeared to check his watch, sparking a backlash from military veterans and conservatives
- Biden has also drawn the ire of some of the parents of those killed including Kathy McCollum, who blasted the president as ‘dementia ridden’ over the death of her son Riley, 20
- President met with families of the fallen before the ‘dignified transfer’ of their remains
- Biden said Saturday their ‘bravery and selflessness’ helped get more than 100,000 people to safety
- The Pentagon said the last troops in Kabul had begun their final withdrawal
- As many as five rockets were fired at Kabul airport on Monday morning, local time, and were intercepted
- The rocket fire came after three children were killed in a US drone strike targeting ‘multiple suicide bombers’
- Jihadists were believed to be planning another attack on the the Hamid Karzai International in Kabul
- Taliban spokesman confirmed Sunday’s incident, saying car bomb destined for the airport was destroyed
- Some 300 American citizens are still waiting to be evacuated from Afghanistan, Secretary of State confirmed
President Joe Biden is under fire after appearing to look at his watch just seconds after a salute honoring the return of the 13 US servicemembers killed in Thursday’s ISIS-K suicide bombing in Kabul.
The president made the unannounced trip to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Sunday morning as the caskets of the 13 service members killed in the attack were brought back to the United States.
He stood in silence, his right hand to his chest, as a succession of flag draped transfer coffins were carried past him from a C-17 Globemaster plane.
But during the ceremony, Biden appears to jerk his left arm up and look down at his watch, which sparked backlash from veterans and conservative commentators.
The 13 killed on Thursday were Navy corpsman Max Soviak, Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Knauss, and Marines Hunter Lopez, Rylee McCollum, David Lee Espinoza, Kareem Nikoui, Jared Schmitz, Daegan Page, Taylor Hoover, Humberto Sanchez, Johanny Rosario, Dylan Merola and Nicole Gee.
Their remains arrived at Dover Air Force Base, at 8am for a ‘dignified transfer,’ the solemn moment when fallen troops return to American soil.
Biden’s apparent checking of his watch sparked fury among veterans, Republican politicians and commenters online.
‘Looks like he was being inconvenienced by having to show some respect for these American Heroes [sic],’ wrote Desert Storm Army veteran Samuel Williams.
Submarine veteran J Larry Hanna wrote: ‘Biden, as the caskets passed before him, had to glance at his watch. Does he have something more important?’
Another veteran wrote: ‘After a fallen soldier goes by, Biden shows his true incredibly disrespectful soul, he checks his watch as if he has somewhere else to be. I’m so mad, this is personal slap to all veterans and active duty.’
Republicans also leapt to criticize the president.
Texas Rep. Ronny Jackson, a retired Navy rear admiral, tweeted: ‘Apparently our Commander-in-Chief has better things to do than honor the 13 service members who died on his watch? I’m DISGUSTED! God bless these heroes and their loved ones. They deserved better.’
Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said: ‘Many of us remember Pres Bush 41 checking his watch during a debate and how awful it looked (even though we all felt same way about that debate.) But this is shocking and will be remembered.’
‘Did Joe Biden just check his watch? All of this avoidable death boring you, Joe?’ Ian Haworth, an editor for the Daily Wire tweeted.
‘There is nothing more important than paying your respects to America’s fallen war heroes, Mr. President,’ chided Nile Gardiner, a foreign policy analyst and former aide to Margaret Thatcher.
‘@joebiden checking his watch during the dignified transfer of American Heroes killed by his incompetence. Despicable. Resign now,’ tweeted Boris Epshteyn, a former special assistant to President Donald Trump.
‘Our leaders are mindless and weak, tempting our enemies, this is among the saddest periods in US history,’ former Fox News commentator, Lou Dobbs tweeted.
On Monday morning, as many as five rockets were fired at Kabul airport, with some being intercepted by the C-RAM missile defense system. An official said initial reports did not indicate any U.S. casualties, but that information could change. It wasn’t immediately clear who launched them.
The incident came as it was revealed three children were killed in a US drone strike targeting ‘multiple suicide bombers’ planning an attack on the Hamid Karzai International airport – just hours after Biden warned of the possibility of another attack following last week’s that killed 170, including 13 U.S. personnel.
Witnesses said the a strike blew up two cars parked outside a residential building near the airport to the north of Afghanistan’s capital. It is believed the vehicles were going to be used in an ‘imminent’ attack by ISIS-K militants.
Smoke could be seen rising near the airport today, and the sound of the airport’s missile defense system could be heard by local residents, some of whom also reported seeing rockets exploding in the air and shrapnel falling into the street – suggesting at least one rocket had been intercepted.
However, rockets appeared to strike Kabul’s Salim Karwan neighborhood on Monday, witnesses told the Associated Press. Gunfire immediately followed the explosions, but it wasn’t immediately clear who was firing.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement: ‘National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Chief of Staff Ron Klain have briefed the President on the rocket attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport.
‘The President was informed that operations continue uninterrupted at HKIA, and has reconfirmed his order that commanders redouble their efforts to prioritize doing whatever is necessary to protect our forces on the ground.’
How Biden’s watch moment echoes both President Nixon and President Bush
President Joe Biden has come under fire after appearing to look at his watch during a ceremony to mark the return of the 13 US service members killed in Thursday’s ISIS-K suicide bombing in Kabul.
During the ceremony, Biden appeared to jerk his left arm up and look down at his watch, which sparked backlash from veterans and conservative commentators.
But Biden’s faux pas also echos other similar incidents involving past U.S. presidents – Richard Nixon and George Bush Senior.
While on a presidential visit to Belgium in June 1974, Nixon had just finished attending a luncheon hosted by then-King Baudouin of Belgium.
Afterwards, Nixon went outside the Royal Palace in Brussels to greet the public, and walked along the front of a crowd of people shaking their hands one-by-one.
But as Nixon – followed closely his secret service security detail – shook one man’s hand, he lifted his left arm up to check his watch, seemingly more concerned with keeping his busy schedule.
It was in that precise moment a photographer snapped a picture of him, and within two months, Nixon had resigned as president following the Watergate scandal.
Some 18 years later, George Bush Senior was also caught out checking his watch multiple times during a presidential debate in 1992.
As a women from the audience started to ask him a direct question, Bush was caught on camera checking his watch and hoisting up his trousers.
Bush, the president at the time, would go on to lose the 1992 election to Bill Clinton, who he was competing against during the debate, along with independent candidate Ross Perot.
Some 300 American citizens are still waiting to be evacuated from Afghanistan, Secretary of State Andrew Blinken revealed, as he warned that ‘this is the most dangerous time in an already extraordinarily dangerous mission’.
The withdrawal of US forces allowed the Taliban to regain power after an almost 20-year war. The President’s allies at home and abroad have openly accused Mr Biden of blindsiding them with his rush to exit by August 31 and slammed his bungled handling of the crisis.
Biden and the first lady spent the first part of the morning meeting privately with the families of the fallen.
He then walked with other dignitaries – including the first lady, the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and the heads of the military – across the air base apron and up the ramp of the C-17.
Inside they spent a minute in prayer, before emerging and taking up their positions beside the plane to watch the bodies being removed.
Relatives of the fallen were hidden from view behind a line of buses. Their presence became obvious as the second flag-draped transfer case emerged from the plane to the sound of anguished howling.
Even though the proceedings were outside, everyone present wore masks.
Some families of the fallen troops have blasted the president, saying he had unnecessarily put them in harm’s way.
On Friday, Kathy McCollum, the mother of a Marine killed in the attack called Biden a ‘dementia-ridden piece of crap.’
‘My son was one of the Marines that died yesterday,’ Kathy McCollum said in a radio interview on Friday of her 20-year-old late son Rylee.
‘[He was] getting ready to come home from freaking Jordan to be with his wife to watch the birth of his son,’ McCollum said. ‘And that feckless, dementia ridden piece of crap just sent my son to die.’
‘I woke up at four’o’clock this morning to Marines at my door telling me my son was dead,’ she said in the emotional account.
Days before that, Kathy McCollum called Biden a ‘b***h’ for talking about ‘diplomatic crap with Taliban terrorists who just freaking blew up my son’ rather than apologizing for ‘failing’ his troops.
‘My son is gone, and I just want all you Democrats who cheated in the election, or who voted for him legitimately, you just killed my son,’ she said. ‘With a dementia ridden piece of crap who doesn’t even know he’s in the White House who still thinks he’s a senator.’
The death toll was the highest for any single incident since 2011 and Biden has been accused by some of the troops’ families of putting them in harm’s way.
In a statement on Saturday, Biden said: ‘The 13 service members that we lost were heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of our highest American ideals and while saving the lives of others.’
‘Their bravery and selflessness has enabled more than 117,000 people at risk to reach safety thus far. May God protect our troops and all those standing watch in these dangerous days.’
Their deaths, as they protected an airlift of Americans and vulnerable Afghans, brought into stark focus the risks of ending the U.S. war in Afghanistan and the potential political cost to Biden.
The withdrawal of U.S. forces allowed the Taliban to regain power, after an almost 20-year war and the cost of 2,400 American military lives.
International allies have openly accused the president of blindsiding them with his rush to exit by August 31.
And his handling of the crisis – blaming Afghan troops for failing to fight the Taliban and his predecessor’s peace deal with the enemy – triggered withering criticism from all sides at home.
On Sunday, he faced the most difficult part of his decision, watching for himself as 13 transfer cases were due to arrive at Dover.
The Pentagon’s policy is to return America’s fallen troops to their loved ones as quickly as possible.
Once the aircraft lands at Dover AFB, service-specific carry teams remove the transfer cases individually from the aircraft and move them to an waiting vehicle, according to information from Dover’s office of Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations.
The vehicles then transport the fallen to the mortuary facility at Dover for positive identification by the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System and preparation for transport to their final resting place.
The transfer event, which the military does not consider a ceremony but rather a ‘a solemn movement of the transfer case’, can be open to the press for photography and video at the discretion of the fallen troop’s family.
The White House has been forced to defend the withdrawal, saying it was time to end the country’s forever war.’
Biden himself said on Thursday: ‘Imagine where we’d be if I had indicated, on May the 1st, I was not going to renegotiate an evacuation date; we were going to stay there.
‘I’d have only one alternative: Pour thousands of more troops back into Afghanistan to fight a war that we had already won, relative [to] the reason we went in the first place.’
But others said it was never a choice between ramping up or leaving.
A senior European diplomat, who had spent the week trying to get people out of Kabul but was not authorized to speak publicly, offered a blunt assessment.
‘I’m afraid the key question is would 13 American troops have died if you’d just left 2500 doing a stabilising job.
‘We can never do a counter factual but the honest answer is no. You messed up.’
Biden has also been criticized by some of the families.
Nikoui’s father Steve told The Daily Beast on Friday: ‘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.’
On Saturday, the president warned that another terror attack was ‘highly likely.’ And Americans were told to avoid the airport once again.
The Pentagon said the remaining deployment of forces at the airport had begun their final withdrawal ahead of Biden’s deadline for ending the evacuation on Tuesday.
It also said a drone strike had killed a planner and a ‘facilitator’ of ISIS-K plots, but declined to name them.
‘They lost a planner and they lost a facilitator and got one wounded. The fact that two of these individuals are no longer walking on the face of the Earth, that’s a good thing,’ said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.
On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will host a virtual meeting to discuss a coordinated approach for the days ahead, as the U.S. completes its withdrawal from Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover of the country.
The meeting will also include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, Turkey, the European Union and NATO.
Speaking on the Monday rocket launches, a witness – who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals – said they heard the sound of three explosions and then saw a flash, like fire, in the sky and that people fled after the blasts.
Videos posted after the rocket attacks appear to show fires burning on a street in Kabul, though it was not immediately clear if they had been caused by the rockets.
Other photos appear to show the car that had reportedly fired the rockets burned and damaged while Taliban fighters stood guard of it in Lab-e Jar. Photos of the vehicle appear to show some sort of piping in the rear passenger seats.
U.S. military cargo planes continued evacuations at the airport after the rocket fire.
A Taliban spokesman said that a car bomb destined for the airport had been destroyed – and that a possible second strike had hit a nearby house on Sunday.
DailyMail.com has reached out to the State Department for more information and additional comment about the rocket attacks.
President Joe Biden has set a deadline of Tuesday to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan, drawing to a close his nation’s longest military conflict, which began in retaliation for the September 11 attacks.
A number of rockets were fired at Kabul this morning
Witnesses said a number of rockets were fired from a vehicle into the Khair Khana area towards Kabul airport.
No casualties have been reported so far
#ArianaNews #KabulAttack #Afghanistan #AfghanistanBurning pic.twitter.com/fQKQQlxq9F
— Ahmad Shah (@AhmadKhan319338) August 30, 2021
The return of the hardline Islamist Taliban movement, which was toppled in 2001 but took back power a fortnight ago, triggered an exodus of terrified people aboard US-led evacuation flights.
Those flights, which took more than 114,000 people out of Kabul airport, will officially end on Tuesday when the last of the thousands of American troops pull out.
But US forces are now focused chiefly on flying themselves and American diplomats out safely.
The Islamic State group, rivals of the Taliban, pose the biggest threat to the withdrawal after carrying out a suicide bomb attack at the airport late last week that claimed more 170 lives, including those of 13 US troops.
Biden had warned more attacks were highly likely and the United States said it carried out an air strike on Sunday night in Kabul on an explosives-laden vehicle.
American officials said that a U.S. drone strike blew up a vehicle carrying ‘multiple suicide bombers.’ An Afghan official said three children were killed in the strike.
The United States has been accused of killing many civilians in air strikes throughout the war, one reason for losing local support.
‘We are aware of reports of civilian casualties following our strike on a vehicle in Kabul today,’ Captain Bill Urban, a US Central Command spokesman, said in a statement.
Urban said the US military was investigating whether civilians were killed, noting there were ‘powerful’ explosions that resulted from the destruction of the vehicle.
‘We would be deeply saddened by any potential loss of innocent life,’ he said.
The strike on the vehicles, filled with explosives, is believed to have caused a secondary blast, killing and wounding several civilians.
An Afghan official, speaking on condition of anonymity out of security concerns, said that three children were among the dead. It is not known where the children killed in the incident were at the time of the explosion.
The death toll is expected to rise with Afghan TV presenter Muslim Shirzad reporting that as many as six children were dead and nine people in total, including an interpreter who had worked with US troops, and an Afghan army officer due to get married tomorrow.
The Taliban said it welcomed the drone strike in an apparent sign of uneasy co-operation on security around the airport.
Two unnamed US officials earlier confirmed to Reuters that American forces had launched a successful strike in the capital city targeting suspected ISIS-K militants.
Dina Mohammadi said her extended family were in the building and that several of them had been killed, including children.
Ahmaduddin, a neighbour, said he had collected the bodies of children after the strike, which set off more explosions inside the house.
There were earlier reports of a possible separate incident in which it was claimed a child had been killed in a rocket strike on a house near to the airport. It has since emerged this is the same event.
A security official from the recently deposed government told AFP a house was struck while a source at the Afghan Ministry of Health separately told the BBC the blast was near the airport, with two witnesses informing Reuters a house north of the airport was struck by a rocket.
There was no official confirmation and no terrorist group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. A US official told CBS: ‘We are confident we hit the target we were aiming for. Initial reports indicate there were no civilian casualties.’
The official added that the drone strike caused ‘significant secondary explosions’ indicating the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material in the vehicle.
Biden had previously warned another terror attack on the airport was imminent after an attack at Kabul airport carried out by ISIS-K – an Islamic extremist group operating in the Central Asian country – killed 13 American service personnel and scores of Afghans.
The Pentagon said a US drone mission in eastern Afghanistan killed two members of the so-called Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate early on Saturday in retaliation for the airport bombing, and Mr Biden said the extremists can expect more.
In a statement on Saturday, Mr Biden said: ‘The 13 service members that we lost were heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of our highest American ideals and while saving the lives of others.
‘Their bravery and selflessness has enabled more than 117,000 people at risk to reach safety thus far. May God protect our troops and all those standing watch in these dangerous days.’
The evacuation of Americans proceeded as tensions rose over the prospect of another IS attack. The State Department issued a new security alert early on Sunday instructing people to leave the airport area immediately ‘due to a specific, credible threat’.
Sullivan pledged the US ‘will make sure there is safe passage for any American citizen, any legal permanent resident’ after Tuesday, as well as for ‘those Afghans who helped us’.
He said the US would continue strikes against IS and consider ‘other operations to go after these guys, to get them and to take them off the battlefield’.
He added: ‘We will continue to bring the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan to make sure they do not represent a threat to the United States.’
The administration’s plan ‘is not to have an ongoing embassy presence in Afghanistan’, Mr Sullivan said.
‘But we will have means and mechanisms of having diplomats on the ground there, be able to continue to process out these applicants, be able to facilitate the passage of other people who want to leave Afghanistan.’
The US Embassy said: ‘Due to a specific, credible threat, all U.S. citizens in the vicinity of Kabul airport (HKIA), including the South (Airport Circle) gate, the new Ministry of the Interior and the gate near the Panjshir Petrol station on the northwest side of the airport, should leave the airport area immediately.’
Before the warning was issued, Mr Biden vowed that his revenge strike for the terror attack is ‘not the last’ and added that the ‘situation on the ground continues to be extremely dangerous.’
In recent years, the Islamic State’s Afghanistan-Pakistan chapter has been responsible for some of the deadliest attacks in those countries.
They have massacred civilians at mosques, public squares, schools, and even hospitals.
While both IS and the Taliban are hardline Sunni Islamists, they are bitter foes – with each claiming to be the true flag-bearers of jihad.
Last week’s suicide bombing at the airport led to the worst single-day death toll for the US military in Afghanistan since 2011.
The IS threat has forced the US military and the Taliban to co-operate in ensuring security at the airport in a way unthinkable just weeks ago.
On Saturday, Taliban fighters escorted a steady stream of Afghans from buses to the main passenger terminal, handing them over to US forces for evacuation.
The Taliban have promised a softer brand of rule compared with their first stint in power, which the US military ended because they gave sanctuary to Al-Qaeda.
But many Afghans fear a repeat of the Taliban’s brutal interpretation of Islamic law, as well as violent retribution for working with foreign militaries, Western missions or the previous US-backed government.
Western allies have warned many thousands of at-risk Afghans have not been able to get on the evacuation flights.
On Sunday, the Taliban revealed their supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada was in southern Afghanistan and planning to make a public appearance.
‘He is present in Kandahar. He has been living there from the very beginning,’ said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid. ‘He will soon appear in public,’ added deputy spokesman Bilal Karimi of the leader, whose whereabouts have remained largely unknown.
PICTURED: All 13 US troops killed by ISIS-K suicide bomber during Kabul airport evacuation
On August 26, 2021, 11 Marines, one Navy corpsman, and one Army staff sergeant were killed in a suicide attack in Kabul that also claimed more than 160 Afghan lives. The US servicemembers were on a mission of mercy to evacuate at-risk Afghans after the disastrous US withdrawal led to a Taliban takeover. These are their stories:
Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23
Marine Sgt. Nicole Gee was was a maintenance technician with 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Roseville, California.
A week before she was killed, Gee cradled a baby in her arms at the Kabul airport. She posted the photo on Instagram and wrote, ‘I love my job.’
Sgt. Mallory Harrison, who lived with Gee for three years and called her a ‘sister forever’ and best friend, 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.’
Gee’s Instagram page shows another photo of her in fatigues, holding a rifle next to a line of people walking into the belly of a large transport plane. She wrote: ‘escorting evacuees onto the bird.’
The social media account that includes many selfies after working out at the gym lists her location as California, North Carolina and ‘somewhere overseas.’
Photos show her on a camel in Saudi Arabia, in a bikini on a Greek isle and holding a beer in Spain. One from this month in Kuwait shows her beaming with her meritorious promotion to sergeant.
Harrison said her generation of Marines hears war stories from veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, but they seem distant amid boring deployments until ‘the peaceful float you were on turns into … your friends never coming home.’
Gee´s car was still parked in a lot at Camp Lejeune and Harrison mused about all the Marines who walked past it while she was overseas.
‘Some of them knew her. Some of them didn´t.’ she said. ‘They all walked past it. The war stories, the losses, the flag-draped coffins, the KIA bracelets & the heartbreak. It´s not so distant anymore.’
‘She cared about people. She loved fiercely. She was a light in this dark world. She was my person,’ said Harrison in a Facebook post.
‘I find peace knowing that she left this world doing what she loved. She was a Marine’s Marine,’ she said.
‘She was doing God’s work…..a warrior. Searching Afghan women and children trying to get out of country,’ Captain Karen Holliday said in a Facebook tribute.
Holliday called Gee a ‘Model Marine. A leader on the ground in a chaotic situation.’
She said that a photo released of Gee a few days before her death, showing her escorting Afghans onto a waiting plane, had been bombarded with sexist online comments ‘degrading her for being a female Marine.’
Lance Corporal Dylan Merola, 20
Lance Corporal Merola was a Marine from Rancho Cucamonga, California.
He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Camp Pendleton, California.
The 20-year-old was a graduate of Los Osos High School, according to KABC-TV.
Students honored him at Friday night’s football game by wearing red, white and blue.
‘Dylan was a beloved son, brother, grandson, great grandson, nephew, a great friend, and a brave soldier,’ said family friend Joseph Matsuoka on a GoFundMe page to raise money for his funeral.
Matsuoka said that Merola ‘paid the ultimate sacrifice at the Abbey Gate at Hamid Karzai International Airport during the evacuation.’
Sgt. Johanny Rosario, 25
Marine Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo was a Marine sergeant from Lawrence, Massachusetts assigned to 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Naval Support Activity Bahrain.
She was a graduate of Lawrence High School and attended Bridgewater State University.
On social media, friends issued and outpouring of grief and devastation at Rosario’s death.
Nastassia Hyatt, a former Marine, recalled Rosario helping her through difficult times in a Facebook post.
‘You brought me back to life. Back to life… back to life….’ Hyatt wrote. ‘I wish i could bring you back to life for just one last hug, one last smile, one last nap, one last meal… one last anything.’
‘She the second half of my heart next to my son. Like she’s everything to me. She is the greatest love I’ve ever known in a human besides my son. This one hit hard,’ Hyatt said.
‘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,’ said Lawrence Mayor Kendrys Vasquez in a statement to WCVB-TV.
The Dominican Republic’s embassy in the United States tweeted that Rosario was originally from that Caribbean nation.
Sonia Guzmán, the Dominican Republic´s ambassador to the United States, tweeted that the Dominican community shares in the loss.
‘Peace to your soul!’ she tweeted in Spanish.
Rosario served with the Naval Amphibious Force, Task Force 51/5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, which praised her efforts as supply chief this spring and thanked her for a job well done.
In Lawrence, Massachusetts, Mayor Kendrys Vasquez said he has been in contact with the family.
‘We are heartbroken by the death of the servicemen and women due to the bombing in Kabul this week,’ he said. ‘I and the city of Lawrence are particularly saddened that one of those brave souls was a daughter of our city.’
The family wishes for privacy ‘and that their loved one be recognized as the hero that she was,’ the mayor said.
Melendez said people have strong feelings about the U.S. involvement that’s coming to an end after two decades in Afghanistan.
‘There are people on both sides of the fence. I get it,’ he said. ‘This is about one of our own, a daughter of Lawrence. For us it is definitely about her service and her family´s sacrifice. That´s what will be focusing on.’
‘I have been in touch with the family of the Lawrencian killed in action to extend mine and my family’s most sincere condolences and offer all of the aid that my administration can provide as they grieve this great loss,’ the mayor said.
‘At this time, the family’s most immediate wish is to be given privacy and that their loved one be recognized as the hero that she was.’
Hospitalman Maxton Soviak, 20
Maxton William Soviak was a Navy corpsman from New Berlin, Ohio. He was assigned to 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, California
Weeks before his death, he made a tragic Instagram post on June 10, sharing a photo posing with other service members in what is believed to be Afghanistan.
‘It’s kill or be killed, definitely trynna be on the kill side,’ he wrote in a comment on the post. Navy corpsmen often work alongside Marines, who do not have their own medics.
Soviak’s sister Marilyn said in her own Instagram post that her brother was there to ‘help people’.
‘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,’ she wrote.
‘He was just a kid. We are sending kids over there to die. Kids with families that now have holes just like ours,’ she added. ‘I’m not one for praying but d**n 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.’
Soviak was named as a casualty of the attack by his high school in Milan, Ohio, where he graduated in 2017.
‘It is with deepest sorrow that I am sharing this news,’ Edison Local School District Superintendent Thomas Roth said in a statement.
‘Max was a good student who was active in sports and other activities throughout his school career. He was well respected and liked by everyone who knew him. Max was full of life in everything he did.’
Soviak’s family confirmed his death to local media and have asked for privacy.
In high school, Soviak was on the honor roll and played football, according to the Sandusky Register.
Soviak was among the nearly 6,000 US troops now working frantically to evacuate Americans and Afghan refugees from Kabul, with just days remaining before President Joe Biden’s August 31 deadline to withdraw.
Lance Corporal David Lee Espinoza, 20
David Lee Espinoza, was a 20-year-old U.S. Marine from Rio Grande, Texas.
His mother, Elizabeth Holguin, said: ‘He was a very good person. He served his country. He helped in any way he could. He was there (in Afghanistan), helping innocent people.’
This was his second deployment; he first made a trip to the Middle East and arrived in Afghanistan for about a week.
Holguin said she was uneasy about him being deployed there.
‘I prayed every day,’ she said.
He is one of four children; he is not married and has no children.
The mom last spoke with him Tuesday.
‘I just told him to be careful, that I was worried about him and I couldn’t wait for him to come back,’ Holguin said. ‘He told me he was fine and not to worry…. He was brave. If he was scared, he didn’t show it.’
She said she holds no animosity toward the president, saying her son ‘wanted to be there.’
Holguin learned her son was dead when she received a phone call Friday at 2.30am.
‘He was just brave enough to go do what he wanted and to help out people. That´s who he was, he was just perfect,’ his mother, Elizabeth Holguin, told the Laredo Morning Times.
In a statement, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar said Espinoza ’embodied the values of America: grit, dedication, service, and valor. 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.’
Cuellar concluded, ‘The brave never die. Mr. Espinoza is a hero.’
Lance Corporal Rylee McCollum, 20
Marine Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum was named by his high school in Wyoming as a casualty in the attack.
He was expecting to become a father and was pictured with his pregnant wife shortly before deploying to Afghanistan in April.
Cheyenne McCollum, Rylee’s sister, told DailyMail.com her brother had wanted to be a Marine since he was a toddler – and that his own baby is due in just three weeks.
‘Rylee was an amazing, man with a passion for the Marines. He was a son, a brother, a husband and a father with a baby due in just 3 weeks,’ she said.
‘He wanted to be a marine his whole life and carried around his rifle in his diapers and cowboy boots.
‘He was determined to be in infantry and this was his first deployment. Rylee was sent to Afghanistan when the evac began. Rylee was manning the check point when he suicide bomb went off.
‘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.
‘To his friends and teammates and coaches, he was family. 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. We love you Rylee.’
Rylee McCollum graduated from Summit Innovations School in Jackson in 2019.
Wyoming Schools Superintendent Jillian Balow said in a statement: ‘Saying that I am grateful for Rylee’s service to our country does not begin to encapsulate the grief and sadness I feel today as a mother and as an American.’
‘My heart and prayers are with Rylee’s family, friends, and the entire Jackson community,’ she added.
The Wyoming-born Marine’s wrestling coach and close family friend, Benjamin Arlotta said ‘heads should roll’ over the disastrous US exit and that the young soldier’s family is ‘absolutely broken’.
Arlotta told DailyMail.com that even in diapers McCollum would stand watch on his porch with a toy rifle, first said he wanted to be a Marine aged eight, and signed up on his 18th birthday.
In a glowing eulogy to the young expectant father, whose new baby is due in three weeks, Arlotta described McCollum as a ‘personal hero’ and a ‘fantastic brother, fantastic uncle, and a wonderful friend’.
‘I was his wrestling coach since he was six. He was one of the best. A great kid, a great young man and an American patriot. He loved being a Marine,’ Arlotta said.
‘He was just a good man all around. We’re all hurting pretty bad.
‘It’s impossible. I’m sitting here with the family right now – with his dad and two sisters, his brother-in-law and niece. They’re shattered, they’re absolutely broken. The entire community is.’
Arlotta, 37, said he is furious at the Biden administration and blames the White House for putting soldiers in an unnecessarily dangerous position.
‘It’s a junk show, an absolute junk show. Not just for Rylee but for every serviceman and woman over there. They were put in a very terrible spot. In my opinion this entire circumstance has been mismanaged from every level,’ he told DailyMail.com.
‘The only thing I can hope for is that accountability isn’t forgotten. Because for the 13 men who were killed yesterday, heads need to roll for the way things have gone.
‘We’re just seeing the beginning of it. It’s not over, it’s only going to get worse. Everybody in the country needs to be praying for our servicemen and women right now. They have a scrap out in front of them.
‘Sadly those 13 Marines aren’t going to be the last ones to perish because of these terrible decisions that were made.’
Recalling fond memories of the young Jackson Hole native, the wrestling coach told a heartwarming story of McCollum’s determination.
‘When he was 13 he came into the competition season 32lbs heavier than where he wanted to be,’ Arlotta said.
‘He told me he would lose it. We made a bet. I was going to quit chewing tobacco if he could get down there. That was September, by the time the state championship rolled around in January he had made weight.
‘He entered the wrestling tournament at that weight and I quit chewing that day.
‘He was first and foremost a man of his word. If he said he would do something, by goodness gracious he stood right in front of you until he did it.’
McCollum moved to California for training. His pregnant wife Jiennah ‘Gigi’ Crayton lives in the San Diego area.
The 20-year-old lance corporal wanted to be a soldier since childhood, first telling his parents he would join the Marines age eight.
‘We were driving back from his first state wrestling tournament, I was riding with his family,’ said Arlotta. ‘We asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he said he wanted to be in the Marines.
‘He enlisted on his 18th birthday,’ the coach added. ‘When he actually enlisted his recruiter told him he could be anything, he could do any job. He swore up and down he wanted to be an infantryman.
‘If you know Rylee, you know you can’t talk him out of a damn thing, so that’s what he did.’
U.S. Congresswoman Liz Cheney, a fellow Wyoming resident, issued a statement when she learned of Rylee’s passing.
‘I want to offer my deepest condolences to Rylee McCollum’s family and loved ones. His bravery and patriotism will never be forgotten. His willingness to put himself in harm’s way to keep our country safe and defend our freedom represents a level of selflessness and heroism that embodies the best of America.
‘We know that the McCollum family is grieving this tragic loss. I ask that people in Wyoming and across the country please keep those close to Rylee in their prayers, and remember that we are only free because of the courage and valor of service members like him.’
Lance Corporal Jared Schmitz, 20
Marine Lance Corporal Jared Schmitz was a 20-year-old from Wentzville, Missouri.
His father Mark Schmitz told KMOX the Marines notified his family about 2.40am on Friday about his son’s death.
‘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.
The grieving father grew emotional as he spoke about his son, welling up with tears.
‘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.’
Mark Schmitz slammed Biden and blamed him for his son’s death.
‘Be afraid of our leadership or lack thereof. Pray every day for the soldiers that are putting their lives at risk, doing what they love which is protecting all of us,’ Schmitz’s father said.
He added that he was relieved when his son signed up as a Marine when Trump was in office because he ‘really believed this guy didn’t want to send people into harm’s way.’
Lance Corporal Kareem Nikoui, 20
Marine Lance Corporal Kareem Nikoui was a native of Norco, California.
Nikoui’s father Steve, a carpenter, vented his frustrations at Biden in an interview with the Daily Beast.
‘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,’ he said
Steve Nikoui said he knew his son was dead when he saw two Marines approaching his home on Thursday at 7.15pm PST.
He said he sat with the two emotional Marines, who cried more than he cried, and then had them leave.
Steve also appeared on Fox with Tucker Carlson on Friday to further criticize Biden in an emotional interview where he said the attack could have been avoided.
‘From what I saw of the airport that they’re in, looked like a Turkey shoot. It’s funneled in to a single file-type entry point at which if you have in sort of chaos of any sort, they would all like gather to that one funneled area, which they would all be accessed. That’s what happened. It was just basically so chaotic and not really planned out,’ Steve said.
As he teared up, he also said he was upset by how long it took to learn of his son’s death.
‘How long does it take for the military to, you know, inform the next of kin?’
‘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,’ he said.
He added that his son, who was based at Camp Pendleton in California, would often bring other Marines home on the holidays if they couldn’t get back to their own families.
‘My wife and I felt very honored that [since] these other boys weren’t around their homes, that we were able to provide some sort of family life for them.
‘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,’ he said.
Speaking outside Kareem’s home on Friday, a relative told DailyMail.com that Kareem’s family were inside signing the documents required to repatriate him.
He added: ‘They’re totally devastated and they need some time. All the family are here and we’re supporting them.’
A steady stream of people have been seen coming and going from the home all day, among them some of Kareem’s colleagues from the Camp Pendleton Marine base in San Diego.
Kareem’s mother Shana Chappell posted angrily on social media, blaming Vice-President Kamala Harris for the loss of her son.
At the social media message of condolence from the Vice-President, she wrote: ‘This c u next Tuesday is a joke! They are the reason my son is dead.’
Kareem’s death is also being mourned by his home city of Norco – a small community of 26,000 people nicknamed ‘Horsetown’ that sits 50 miles east of Los Angeles.
Confirming his death, the city released a message of condolence that read: ‘The City of Norco mourns the loss of Norco resident U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Kareem Mae’Lee Grant Nikoui who was killed in action while stationed at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Thursday, August 26, 2021.
‘The U.S. Marine, who graduated from Norco High School in 2019 and served in JROTC, was committed to serving his country and is survived by his mother, father and siblings.’
The city of Norco plans to honor Nikoui by placing his name on the ‘Lest We Forget Wall’ at the George A. Ingalls Veterans Memorial Plaza.
Lance Corporal Hunter Lopez, 22
Marine Lance Corporal Hunter Lopez, a native of California’s Coachella Valley and the son of two police officers, was also killed in the attack, Sheriff Chad Bianco confirmed.
‘I am unbelievably saddened and heartbroken for the Lopez family as they grieve over the loss of their American Hero,’ Bianco wrote.
‘Hunter Lopez, son of our own Captain Herman Lopez and Deputy Alicia Lopez, tragically lost his life while serving our country in the United States Marine Corp. He was killed in Kabul, Afghanistan on Thursday, August 26th,’ the sheriff added.
‘Before joining the Marine Corp, Hunter proudly served in our Sheriff’s Explorer Program. Our entire department is mourning this tragic loss. The Lopez family exemplifies the meaning of Service Above Self.’
City of La Quinta issued a statement: ‘Our La Quinta Family is in mourning today with the tragic loss of Hunter Lopez, one of the fallen United States Service Members in the attack in Afghanistan,’
‘Hunter is the son of Captain Herman and Alicia Lopez, both members of the Riverside Sheriff’s Department. Captain Herman Lopez is our Police Chief and Captain over at the Thermal Station,’ the statement added.
‘We are all so humbled by the service and ultimate sacrifice that Hunter gave to protect our country. He was a brave and selfless soldier who answered the call to be a United States Marine. Like his parents, Hunter wanted to help serve others and protect his community.’
Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, 31
Marine Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, of Salt Lake City, Utah, was another of the service members killed outside the Kabul airport, his family told KSL-TV.
He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, California.
Friends and family mourned his loss, including fellow students who graduated in the Class of 2008 at Hillcrest High School with him in Midvale.
‘Soooooo glad I got to see him before he left. I love you son!!! You’re my hero!! Please check in on us once in a while. I’ll try to make you proud!!’ Hoover’s father, Darin Hoover, wrote on Facebook.
‘My handsome nephew, Staff Sergeant Taylor Hoover. Taylor spent his entire adult life as a Marine, serving. Doing the hard things that most of us can’t do. He is a hero,’ Jeremy Soto, an uncle, wrote.
‘We are wounded. We are bruised. We are angry. We are crushed… but we remain faithful. Thank you for your courage nephew. We love you always.’
‘Always a smile. Always respectful. A joy to be around. He is adored beyond measure. The world has lost a true light. Our hearts are broken. Shock, disbelief, horror, sadness, sorrow, anger and grief,’ Brittany Jones Barnett, an aunt, added.
‘Thank you sweet boy for the ultimate sacrifice. For giving your life for us all. Fighting for freedom and giving absolutely everything you had. You will never ever be forgotten. We love you so much,’ she added.
‘He is a hero. He gave his life protecting those that can´t protect themselves, doing what he loved serving his country,’ said father Darin Hoover, who lives in a Salt Lake City suburb, in an AP interview.
He said he had heard from Marines who said they were grateful they had his son as their sergeant.
‘They look back on him and say that they´ve learned so much from him,’ Hoover said. ‘One heck of a leader.’
Hoover said his son was also a best friend to his two sisters and loved all his extended family. He had a girlfriend in California and was the kind of guy who ‘lit up a room’ when he came in, his father said.
Nate Thompson of Murray, Utah, first met Hoover when they were 10 years old in Little League football. They stayed friends through high school, where Hoover played lineman. He was undersized for the position, but his heart and hard work more than made up for what he lacked in statute, Thompson said. As a friend, he was selfless and kind.
‘If we had trouble with grades, trouble with family or trouble on the field, we always called Taylor. He´s always level-headed, even if he´s struggling himself,’ he said.
U.S. Representative Blake Moore, who represents Utah’s 1st Congressional District, also mourned the loss of Hoover.
‘We’ll be forever grateful for his sacrifice & legacy. He spent his last moments serving our state & nation, and we’ll never forget his unwavering devotion,’ he wrote in a statement.
Utah Senator Mike Lee wrote in a statement, ‘Burying a child is a grief no parent should bear. Sharon and I mourn with the Hoover family and with all who loved [Hoover]… who gave the last full measure of devotion in Afghanistan.
‘He died completing a mission to save his countrymen and civilians from evil and oppression. He lived the Marine Corps motto by living and dying always faithful.’
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox ordered that flags be flown at half-staff at all state facilities and public grounds effective immediately until sunset on August. 30 to honor Hoover and all those who died in the recent attack.
‘We are devastated to hear of the passing of Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover. Staff Sgt. Hoover served valiantly as a Marine and died serving his fellow countrymen as well as America’s allies in Afghanistan. We honor his tremendous bravery and commitment to his country, even as we condemn the senseless violence that resulted in his death. Abby and I pray for Staff Sgt. Hoover, his family and loved ones during this most difficult time,’ Cox said in a statement.
A family member told ABC 4 that Hoover, ‘died a hero doing what he always wanted to do and was proud to do, serve his country.
Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23
Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23, was a native of Corryton, Tennessee. Knauss was assigned to 9th PSYOP Battalion, 8th PSYOP Group, Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.
He first was identified as one of the victims by his grandfather, Wayne Knauss.
‘He grew up in a Christian home, attended Berean Christian school through 8th grade and spent, four years at Gibbs High [School],’ said Wayne about his grandson. ‘A motivated young man who loved his country. He was a believer so we will see him again in Gods heaven.’
Wayne told ABC 6 that Ryan had served right out of high school for five years with special training in Psychology Operations.
Ryan’s stepmother, Lianne Knauss, added that Ryan told them he was looking forward to returning to the U.S. and moving to Washington D.C.
‘He was a super-smart hilarious young man,’ she said.
U.S. Representative Tim Burchett, a fellow Knoxville resident, also tweeted a tribute to the fallen marine.
‘Ryan gave his life outside that airport helping people he didn’t know get to safety. This is what true heroism looks like and Ryan’s sacrifice will never be forgotten. The Knauss family is my prayers.’ Burchett wrote
Diane Trulson Amundson Knauss also urged people to support Wayne and the troops in Afghanistan.
‘Please pray for our military in Afghanistan and all over the world,’ she wrote. ‘Our hearts ache for Wayne and Neena… and all families.’
Corporal Daegan Page, 23
Marine Corp. Daegan William-Tyeler Page, 23, was a native of Omaha, Nebraska.
In a statement, Page’s family confirmed that he was one of the slain service members at Kabul airport.
‘Our hearts are broken, but we are thankful for the friends and family who are surrounding us during this time,’ the family said.
‘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.’
Page grew up in Omaha and Red Oak, Iowa. He enjoyed playing hockey for Omaha Westside in the local hockey club and was a diehard Chicago Blackhawks fan.
He also oved hunting and spending time outside with his father.
His family said he was a longtime Boy Scout who was eager to join the U.S. Marine Corps.
‘Daegan joined the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating from Millard South High School. He loved the brotherhood of the Marines and was proud to serve as a member of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.’
They added that Page was looking forward to coming home to see his family and friends. He also had plans to go to trade school, contemplating a career as a lineman.
‘Daegan will always be remembered for his tough outer shell and giant heart. Our thoughts and prayers are also with the other Marine and Navy families whose loved ones died alongside Daegan,’ the family said.
Shana Nicole, a friend of Page, added that ‘the world lost an amazing hero.
‘My heart hurts for everyone who knew Daegan. He was so so kind always,’ she wrote on Facebook.
U.S. Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, who represents Page’s home district, also issued a statement mourning the loss of the young marine.
‘I was just notified about the death of Marine Corporal Page. My heart was already broken over our country’s loss of 13 service members in Afghanistan. Now the loss is even harder,’ Fortenberry said.
‘God bless Corporal Page. He saved lives and served his country honorably. His life was cut short but had ultimate meaning. By his bravery and will, many others will have a chance. I send my heartfelt condolences to his family.’
Corporal Humberto Sanchez, 22
Officials in Indiana confirmed that Corp. Humberto Sanchez was also among the dead.
Sanchez graduated from Logansport High School in 2017. He also attended Columbia Elementary.
‘Like many, I have been heartbroken over the recent loss of the 13 U.S. service members who were murdered in the terrorist attacks against our evacuation efforts in Kabul, Afghanistan,’ Logansport Mayor Chris Martin said in a statement on Facebook.
‘Even more heartbreaking is learning the news today that one of those killed was from right here at home in Logansport, Indiana.
‘This young man had not yet even turned 30 and 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.’
Adrian Gazcon, a friend, also wrote a tribute on Twitter for Sanchez, saying that ‘it hurts that he’s gone.’ ‘Thank you for your service, you’re a hero bro.’