LATEST: The Defense Department formally identified all 13 service members, including 10 from Camp Pendleton.
SAN DIEGO — Loved ones and elected officials first began identifying the 13 service members killed in the Afghanistan terror attack in announcements made Thursday; they included Southern California natives and Camp Pendleton Marines.
On Saturday, we learned the identities of the entire group when the Department of Defense made its formal announcement. Below is a collection of stories, details and photos (when available) collected about the fallen military members, several of whom were no more than 20 years old.
Nikoui, 20, was a Southern California native based at Camp Pendleton. He graduated from Norco High School in 2019 and was a member of the school’s Air Force junior ROTC program. He is survived by his mother, father and siblings, the city said in a Facebook post.
Nikoui’s father, Steve Nikoui, said in an interview with the Daily Beast that his son loved serving his country and had “always wanted to be Marine.”
“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.”
Marine Daegan Page
Page, 23, served in the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment at Camp Pendleton. He planned to go to trade school and possibly become a lineman after his enlistment ended, his family said in a statement obtained by the Associated Press.
Page was raised in Red Oak, Iowa, and in the Omaha metro area and joined the Marines after graduating from Millard South High School. He is mourned by his girlfriend, parents, stepmom and stepdad, four siblings and grandparents, according to the family.
“Daegan will always be remembered for his tough outer shell and giant heart,” the statement said. ”Our hearts are broken, but we are thankful for the friends and family who are surrounding us during this time. Our thoughts and prayers are also with the other Marine and Navy families whose loved ones died alongside Daegan.”
Lopez, 22, was a Southern California native based at Camp Pendleton. He was a Riverside Sheriff’s Explorer Scout for three years at the Palm Desert Station and planned to join his father on the force after returning from his current deployment, the Riverside Sheriff’s Association said.
“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 statement reads.
Riverside County Sheriff Chad Biacno identified Lopez’s parents as Sheriff’s Department Capt. Herman Lopez and Deputy Alicia Lopez. He called their son “their American Hero.”
Knauss, 23, was a graduate of Gibbs High School in Tennessee, FOX 5 partner WATE reports.
“He grew up in a Christian home, attended Berean Christian school through 8th grade and spent, 4 years at Gibbs High,” said Wayne Knauss about his grandson. “A motivated young man who loved his country. He was a believer so we will see him again in Gods heaven.”
Knauss’ stepmother told the station that the fallen soldier had been looking forward to coming back to the states and moving to Washington, D.C.
Soviak, 22, was a native of Berlin Heights in Ohio and based at Camp Pendleton. His family released a statement to FOX 5 partner WJW that read in part:
“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.”
Marine Darin Taylor Hoover
Hoover, a 31-year-old Utah resident, was based at Camp Pendleton. He had been in the Marines for 11 years and was remembered as a hero who died serving others, his father Darin Hoover told the Associated Press.
“He is a hero. He gave his life protecting those that can’t protect themselves, doing what he loved serving his country,” said Darin Hoover, who lives in a Salt Lake City suburb.
He said he heard from Marines throughout the day Friday who said they are grateful they had his son as their sergeant.
“They look back on him and say that they’ve learned so much from him,” Darin Hoover said. “One heck of a leader.”
Rep. Henry Cuellar confirmed during a call with media that Espinoza, a 20-year-old from Laredo in South Texas, was among those killed in Kabul. He had been based at Camp Pendleton.
“Mr. Espinoza embodied the values of America: grit, dedication, service, and valor,” Cuellar said in a statement. “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. 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.”
Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer confirmed on Twitter that Schmitz, 20, was killed in the attack and said that “because of his death thousands of people will live.” Luetkemeyer said Schmitz’s family was from the district he represents in Missouri. He had been based at Camp Pendleton.
The fallen Marine’s former girlfriend, Lexie Correa, spoke to FOX 5 by phone.
“I just completely lost it, like I’m still so in shock that such a great guy got his life taken. He was the best guy you could’ve ever met,” Correa said. “He wanted to go to Afghanistan and make a difference in the world, even if that did mean risk his life.”
McCollum, a 20-year-old Marine from Wyoming, was based at Camp Pendleton. His wife is expecting a baby in three weeks, according to the Associated Press.
“He was a Marine before he knew he was allowed to be a Marine,” his sister Cheyenne told the AP. “He’d carry around his toy rifle and wear his sister’s pink princess snow boots and he’d either be hunting or he was a Marine. Sometimes it would be with nothing on underneath, just a T-shirt.”
Another of the Marine’s sisters, Roice McCollum, told the Casper Star Tribune that her brother was on his first deployment when the Afghanistan evacuations began.
Marine Humberto Sanchez
Sanchez, 22, was from Logansport, Indiana, according to the U.S. Marine Corps. He was based at Camp Pendleton.
He played on Logansport High 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.
“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 Nicole Gee
Gee, 23, was from Sacramento, California, according to the U.S. Marine Corps. She was based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Just a week before she was killed in a suicide bombing with 12 other U.S. service members, Sgt. Nicole Gee was cradling a baby in her arms at the Kabul airport.
She posted the photo on Instagram and wrote, “I love my job.”
Marine Johanny Rosario Pichardo
Rosario Pichardo, 25, was from Lawrence, Massachusetts, according to the U.S. Marine Corps. She was assigned to 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Naval Support Activity Bahrain.
Her family was notified Friday evening and asked for privacy, said Jaime Melendez, director of veterans services in Lawrence, where Rosario attended high school.
“We will not allow her to be forgotten,” Melendez said.
Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss
Knauss, 23, was from Corryton, Tennessee, according to the DOD. He was based at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.
In a statement posted on Twitter on Saturday, 8th Psychological Operations Group Col. Jeremy Mushtare said Knauss’ death was “devastating to our formation and Army family.”
“Ryan was the embodiment of an Army Special Operations Forces soldier, a testament to the professionalism of the non-commissioned officer corps, and a steadfast husband and teammate,” the tweet said.