The identities of the 13 US service members who were killed by an ISIS-K suicide bomber outside of the Kabul airport while helping to oversee the evacuation of thousands of Americans and Afghan allies have begun to emerge.
The names of one Navy Corpsman and four Marines killed in Thursday’s blast have been released while the identities of an additional six Marines and two Army soldiers are yet to be disclosed while the military works to inform their families.
“We continue to mourn the loss of these Marines and pray for their families. Our focus now is taking care of the families of those who were killed and caring for our injured,” Maj. Jim Stenger, a Marine Corps spokesperson, told The Post in an email.
Per protocol, the military does not release information on deceased service members until 24 hours after their family members have been notified but relatives have already independently confirmed several of the deaths ahead of that timeline.
Here’s what we know about the US service members who were killed.
Soviak, a Navy Hospital Corpsman in his early 20s, hails from Berlin Heights, Ohio and graduated from Edison High School in Milan in 2017, the Sandusky Register reported.
A woman who identified herself as Soviak’s older sister, and who goes by Marilyn Soviak on Instagram, penned a heartbreaking post Friday that confirmed her brother’s death.
“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,” the sister wrote.
“he was a f–king 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,” she wrote alongside a slideshow of images showing the two as children.
“he was just a kid. we are sending kids over there to die. kids with families that now have holes just like ours.”
While in high school, Soviak was on the honor roll and football team, the outlet reported.
“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,” the school said in a statement, adding that news of his death has brought “great sorrow.”
Soviak also previously worked as a lifeguard and a maintenance technician, the outlet reported.
Kareem Nikoui is a young Marine from California whose father didn’t realize he’d been killed until he saw a clutch of Marines show up at his door, the Daily Beast reported.
“I haven’t gone to bed all night,” the heartbroken dad told the outlet.
“I’m still in shock. I haven’t been able to grasp everything that’s going on.”
He said his son “loved what he was doing” and “always wanted to be a Marine.”
“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 dad said.
Ahead of his deployment to Afghanistan, Kareem Nikoui was stationed nearby at Camp Pendleton and often visited home on the weekends, bringing along “10 or 15 other Marines” with him, the dad told the Daily Beast.
“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 said.
The father criticized President Biden’s sloppy withdrawal from Afghanistan and said he didn’t expect his son to be in this situation.
“They sent my son over there as a paper pusher and then had the Taliban outside providing security,” Steve Nikoui said.
“I blame my own military leaders… Biden turned his back on him. That’s it.”
David Lee Espinoza
Espinoza was a 20-year-old Marine from Laredo, Texas, according to the Laredo Police Department.
“Our thoughts and prayers will remain with the family of United States Fallen Marine, David L. Espinoza, as well as to his friends and fellow Marines,” the agency wrote in a Facebook post alongside a photo of Espinoza.
“Semper Fi. Thank you for your service.”
Espinoza graduated from Lyndon B. Johnson High School in Laredo and lived in Rio Bravo his entire life, KGNS reported.
“Mr. Espinoza, a Laredo Marine killed in Afghanistan, 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,” Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) wrote on Twitter.
“I mourn him and all the fallen heroes in Afghanistan. My heart goes out to the Espinoza family in this extremely difficult time. The brave never die. Mr. Espinoza is a hero.”
Espinoza leaves behind a brother, mother and stepfather, News 4 San Antonio reported.
McCollum, a Marine from Bondurant, Wyoming, was on his first deployment and was three weeks away from being a dad when he was killed in Thursday’s blast, his sister 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,” McCollum’s sister Roice McCollum told the outlet.
“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.”
Rylee McCollum had just graduated from high school in 2019 and was manning an airport checkpoint when the bomb exploded, the outlet said.
“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,” Wyoming Schools Superintendent Jillian Balow told the outlet.
“My heart and prayers are with Rylee’s family, friends, and the entire Jackson community.”
Wyoming’s Governor Mark Gordon tweeted about the death early Friday.
“I’m devastated to learn Wyoming lost one of our own in yesterday’s terrorist attack in Kabul,” Gordon wrote.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Rylee McCollum of Bondurant. Jennie and I, along with all of Wyoming and the entire country thank Rylee for his service.”
Schmitz was a 20-year-old Lance Corporal in the Marines from St. Charles County, Missouri, according to KMOX. https://fox2now.com/news/missouri/report-wentzville-man-among-13-marines-killed-in-afghanistan/
“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,” Schmitz’s father Mark Schmitz told the outlet.
The heartbroken dad said his son, who always dreamed of being a soldier, was on his first deployment and was sent to Afghanistan from Jordan. He was notified of his death at about 2:40 a.m.
State Rep. Nick Schroer penned a Facebook post about the death. https://www.facebook.com/SchroerMO/posts/5036130306414531
“Today please pray for Lance Corporal Jared Schmitz who paid the ultimate sacrifice yesterday serving our nation,” Schroer wrote on Facebook.
“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.”