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This week America lost 13 of our bravest citizens. They knew there was a threat of an attack and they carried out their mission anyway. Heroic — the only way to describe their actions. We honor their legacy and the sacrifice that they made on behalf of this great nation. To the 13 new Gold Star families, please know your loved ones died as heroes and we will always honor their memories.

John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Who they were:
*excerpts of articles included below

Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, 31, of Daggett County, Utah

Everyone looked up to Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover.

He was the oldest of three siblings in his family, so his two younger siblings always admired him, his father, Darin Hoover, said. He was the first grandchild born on either side of his family, so all the cousins, nieces and nephews looked up to him, too.

“Everybody would go to him because that’s just the personality that he had. He was a born leader. He was helping those that are less fortunate, those that can’t help themselves, serving his country — the one thing that he’s always wanted to do. He loved his country. It meant more to him than anything else, besides his family” – Darin Hoover

Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosariopichardo, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts

Rosario was assigned to the 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Naval Support Activity Bahrain. She was a graduate of Lawrence High School.

Lawrence Mayor Kendrys Vasquez said Saturday that Rosario was “a daughter of our city” and a 2014 graduate of Lawrence High School, where she was a member of the Junior ROTC program.

“Johanny Rosario was a special being in our community, full of light and armed with valor and bravery, who at the young age of 18 decided to raise her hand to serve our country as a member of the United States Marine Corps,” Vasquez said.

Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, of Sacramento, California

A week ago, Gee, 23, posted a photo on Instagram that showed her holding a baby at that airport. She added a simple, profound comment: “I love my job.” The same photo was posted by the Department of Defense on Aug. 21. 

Gee, from Sacramento, California, served as a maintenance technician with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. On her Instagram page, she described herself as a “positive mental attitude advocate.” And according to her own social media page, she had been meritoriously promoted to Sergeant earlier this month. 

Gee graduated from Oakmont High School in Roseville in 2016 prior to joining the military, according to Oakmont principal Isabel Govea.

In a letter, Govea wrote “Nicole is a hometown hero. Her life and service to our country will never be forgotten.”

Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Riverside County, California

Cpl. Lopez was from a family with deep roots in the Coachella Valley. He is the son of two Riverside County Sheriff’s Department employees.

“We are heartbroken to hear this sad news about Hunter, who chose to follow a life of service, selflessness, courage and sacrifice, like his parents,” the news release reads.

The sheriff’s association said that Hunter Lopez was a Riverside Sheriff’s Explorer Scout with the Palm Desert Station from September 2014 to August 2017. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines and was planning on joining the sheriff’s department when he returned from deployment.

Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan William-Tyeler Page, 23, of Red Oak, Iowa

For Cpl. Daegan Page, the words etched in ink on his chest said it all: “Death Before Dishonor.” This week he gave his life while trying to give others a better one.

“Our hearts are broken,” his family said in a statement. Daegan always looked forward to coming home and hanging out with his family and many buddies in Nebraska. To his younger siblings, he was their favorite jungle gym and to his friends, he was a genuinely happy guy that you could always count on. After finishing his enlistment, Daegan planned to come home and go to a local trade school, possibly to become a lineman.

Daegan will always be remembered for his tough outer shell and giant heart…”

Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Indiana

Cpl. Sanchez was among 17 members of his Logansport High School class who joined the military after their 2017 graduation, the school’s principal said.

Sanchez played on the school’s varsity soccer team and was in the homecoming court his senior year, Principal Matt Jones said. Jones called Sanchez a dedicated artist who took many art classes along with honors and dual credit college courses.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David Espinoza, 20, of Laredo, Texas

David had always idolized military life and had aspired to becoming a Border Patrol agent after his service in the Marine Corps, his mother said during a recent interview.

“At 13, he would always play with his pencils and hangers, that they were his guns,” she said. “He always wanted to do that.”

“I feel sad, but I feel happy because he is a hero,” Ms. Holguin said. “He was there helping innocent people. That was what he wanted to do.”

“Humberto was a bright, athletic young man who was popular, well-liked by his soccer teammates, classmates, coaches and teachers,” Jones said. “He was honored to be putting on the Marine uniform and serving his country.”

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20, of Wentzville, Missouri

Lance Cpl. Schmitz decided on the Marines around his freshman and sophomore years in high school, his dad said. Once he made up his mind, he made himself a regular at the Marine office in St. Peters, and began training religiously with recruits even though he wasn’t yet enlisted.

“We used to give him trouble about it,” Mark Schmitz said, “but of course, now we look back on it with admiration.”

He said he didn’t know exactly what drew his son to the Marines, especially because the rest of the veterans in the family were in the Navy. But Schmitz said Jared liked to chart his own path and relished joking with his relatives that his branch was better than theirs.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, 20, Jackson, Wyoming

“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 the 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 jokes and wit brought so much joy…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.”

Rylee leaves behind a wife who is expecting their first child in just three weeks. 

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, California

Merola was a graduate of Los Osos High School. On Friday, students there honored him during the school’s first football game of the season by wearing red, white and blue.

“Dylan was a beloved son, brother, grandson, great grandson, nephew, a great friend and a brave [Marine] who paid the ultimate sacrifice at the Abbey Gate at Hamid Karzai International Airport during the evacuation,” friend Joseph. 

Merola’s uncle shared the following statement about his nephew:

“Dylan loved doing stage set up and technical theater at Los Osos High School in Rancho Cucamonga. He was the kind of person who would always be there for his friends and just enjoyed hanging out with family for family cook nights. They would hike, fish, kayak and spend time just being together. He will be truly missed and always in our hearts.”

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California

Cpl. Nikoui graduated from Norco High School in 2019 and served in the Junior ROTC, according to a statement by the city. He is survived by his parents and siblings.

Hours before he died, he sent videos to his family showing himself interacting with children in Afghanistan.

Nikoui’s father, Steve Nikoui, said in an interview that his son loved serving his country and had “always wanted to be Marine.” He was stationed at Camp Pendleton in North County.

“He really loved that [Marine Corps] family,” the father said. “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.”

Navy Hospital Corpsman Max Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio

“Max was a wonderful son who loved his family, his community, and was proud to serve in the U.S. Navy.

He was excited about the opportunities the Navy would offer him and planned to make the Navy a career. We are incredibly proud of his service to our country.

As we mourn the loss of our son, we also mourn for the loss of the Marines and Soldier who were killed and pray for the speedy recovery of all of those wounded in Afghanistan.

Words cannot express how heartbroken we are with this news and we will miss Max tremendously…” – Soviak Family

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tennessee

Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss was remembered as a motivated man who loved his country and was looking forward to coming back to the U.S. and eventually moving to Washington, D.C., family members said. 

“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.”

Knauss, indeed, died being his own definition of a role model