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This Week’s LION: Recognizing Thirteen Fallen Heroes

The number of indignities in the fiasco of America’s departure from Afghanistan would fill volumes, but one that has got almost no media attention was the blocking of official recognition by Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the US House of Representatives floor for the recognition of the thirteen US military personnel who lost their lives just days before the final pull out. This indignity was acknowledged at the preliminaries of the 9/11 Memorial Ride which publicly read the names, ages, and hometown of these thirteen service members before the thousands of participants. Three days later, Lycoming County Commissioner Scott Metzger did likewise in the invocation at the weekly Commissioners Meeting.

The bombing at Kabul airport’s Abbey Gate on August 26th occurred just hours after the U.S. Embassy in Kabul warned Americans to stay away from the airport due to “security threats.” The suicide bomb was estimated to have contained 25 pounds of high explosives when suicide vests generally contain just five to ten pounds. Even the vest itself had shrapnel to increase its deadly effects. Along with the loss of American military personnel were some 160 Afghans who also died in the blast.

There was one Navy corpsman, one Army Staff Sergeant along with eleven Marines, two of which were female. Out of the thirteen, only one was over the age of 25, five were just 20 years of age. The oldest was Marine Corps SSgt Darin (Bubba) Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah, who had served eleven years before his death at the Kabul Airport. Ironically, Hoover was eleven years old when the 9/11 attacks happened, and vowed then and there that he would serve in the military to fight against America’s enemies.

SSgt Hoover was planning to marry his fiancée when he returned from his tour. He was finishing a long tour, whereas Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Knauss had just arrived one week before and Marine Corps Lance Corporal Jared Schmitz had arrived two weeks before the tragedy.

Marine Corps Sgt Johanny Rosario from Lawrence, Massachusetts was a supply chief and Marine Corps Sgt Nicole Gee, 23, of Roseville, California was a maintenance technician and married to another Marine. Both of these female Marines volunteered to work screening the women and children at the gate. Their commitment to help these distressed women cost them their lives.

Each of these service members were special in their own way. Marine Corps Corporal Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, California, had a father who was a sheriff and mother who was a deputy sheriff in California. He dreamed of following his parents’ example and go into law enforcement after his current deployment was finished. Marine Corps Corporal Daegan Page, 23, of Omaha, Nebraska, was a regular guy who loved the outdoors. He had been a Boy Scout, enjoyed hunting and almost every outdoor activity. He had been looking forward to going to trade school after separation from the Corps and becoming an electrical lineman. Marine Corps Corporal Humberto Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Indiana, was a bright, athletic young man who was so handsome he was on the homecoming court in his senior year. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Rylee McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyoming, was a husband and expectant father.

They came from all over the United States; four were from California, the others came from Ohio, Tennessee, Utah, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Indiana, Wyoming, Texas, and Missouri. What makes them so special is how typical they all were. They simply answered the call.

These thirteen individuals took an oath of allegiance, “I, Darin Hoover, Ryan Knauss, Jared Schmitz, Johann Rosario, Nicole Gee, Hunter Lopez, Daegan Page, Humberto Sanchez, Rylee McCollum, Max Soviak, Dylan Merola, Kareem Nikoui, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

They gave their lives for that oath. That kind of dedication deserves our respect. Thank you 9/11 Memorial Coalition and Lycoming County Commissioners for showing that respect — and shame to our Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi for denying it.

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