What we know about the five California service members killed in Kabul airport blast

Of the 13 U.S. military personnel killed in the Kabul airport blast, 10 were based at Camp Pendleton.

At least five had roots in California.

Here is what we know about the local service members:

Hunter Lopez | Indio

Lopez, 22, of Coachella Valley is the son of two Riverside County sheriff’s deputies, Capt. According to Sheriff Chad Bianco’s statement, Herman Lopez was identified as Deputy Alicia Lopez.

According to a statement from city officials,

Lopez’s dad commands the Sheriff’s Department’s La Quinta Station in Thermal.

“Our La Quinta Family is in mourning today due to the tragic loss Hunter Lopez,” the statement stated. We are all humbled by Hunter’s service and ultimate sacrifice to defend our country. He was a selfless and brave soldier who answered the call to become a United States Marine. Like his parents, Hunter wanted to help serve others and protect his community.”

Lopez graduated from La Quinta High School in 2017 and served with the Sheriff’s Department’s explorer program from September 2014 to August 2017, Bianco said.

Lopez joined the Marine Corps on Sept. 5, 2017, and was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, the sheriff said.

He hoped to follow in the footsteps of his parents and become a Riverside County sheriff’s deputy after he returned from deployment, Bianco stated. The Lopez family requested that Hunter’s memorial donations be made to the Riverside County Deputy Sheriff Relief Foundation, in the name and honor of the Lopez family. Donations can be sent to 21810 Cactus Ave., Riverside, CA 92518.

Kareem Nikoui | Norco

Nikoui, 20, graduated from Norco High School in 2019 and served in the Junior ROTC, according to a statement by the city. His siblings and parents are his survivors.

His family received videos of him interacting with children in Afghanistan just hours before his death.

He asked a young boy to introduce himself in one of the clips.

“Would you like to take a short video with me, buddy?” Nikoui asked, leaning in to capture a video of the boy. “All right, we’re heroes now, man.”

Paul Arreola, a close family friend, told the Associated Press the videos show “the heart of this young man, the love he has.”

” The family is just devastated,” he said. Arreola described Nikoui, a “mazing young man” who was full of promise and had always wanted to become a Marine. He set out to achieve that goal. He loved our country and all that it stands for. He cried, saying that it was so difficult to believe that we have lost him.

Norco city officials said Friday they planned to enshrine Nikoui’s name on the “Lest We Forget Wall” at George A. Ingalls Veterans Memorial Plaza.

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Corona), praised Nikoui’s service and said that “words are incapable of expressing our grief or mourning for Lance Cpl. Nikoui and other U.S. military personnel who were killed .”

“A proud Marine, Lance Cpl. Nikoui and his team put themselves in danger to ensure safety for others. Calvert stated that this is the definition of courage. Calvert said, “That’s the definition of courage.” The burden they bear is unimaginable.”

Dylan R. Merola | Rancho Cucamonga

Merola, 20, planned to go to college and study engineering when he returned to the U.S., according to KCBS-TV.

“One the most amazing kids ever,” his mom told the station. “Kind, loving … he would give anything for anybody.”

Cheryl Merola also described the last text she received from her son. It said: “I won’t be able talk for a while, we’re being sent to another location. I love you, and I’ll talk with you soon

There was a lot of support for his passing.

“Dylan was a beloved son, brother, grandson, great-grandson, nephew, a great friend, and a brave soldier who paid the ultimate sacrifice at the Abbey Gate at Hamid Karzai International Airport during the evacuation,” according to a GoFundMe page seeking donations for his funeral.

Nicole Gee | Sacramento

Marine Sgt. Nicole Gee and another U.S. service member hold Afghan babies.

Marine Sergeant. Nicole Gee, standing with an Afghan baby, was killed Thursday in the suicide bombing at the Kabul airport.

(Sgt. Isaiah Campbell / U.S. Marine Corps

Family members stated that Gee was deeply committed to her work in Afghanistan, and that she documented it on social media.

Gee was born in Roseville, a Sacramento suburb. She attended Oakmont High School. Roseville called her a “hometown hero”. Doris Matsui (D–Sacramento), said Gee “chosen a path that was valorous and served others — making the ultimate sacrifice.” As a nation, we owe her and her family a debt of gratitude.”

Gee’s sister offered a tribute on a GoFundMe Page:

Myself and my family are extremely devastated with the news of my sister passing. My sister Nicole Gee was a shining light to all who knew her. Always positive and encouraging others to succeed. She was and will always be my greatest inspiration and motivation to be the very best version of myself. She is the absolute light in my life. I have always said that she is my best friend, my partner in my crazy life, and my absolute hero. She will be greatly missed. There are no words to describe her loss.

The Associated Press provided an account of her time overseas:

A week before she was killed, Sgt. Nicole Gee held a baby in her arms at Kabul airport. She posted the photo on Instagram and wrote, “I love my job.”

Gee, 23, was a maintenance technician with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

Brig. Gen. Forrest C. Poole III was the commanding general of 2nd Marine Logistics Group. He said that his unit had lost “the tremendous loss of Sgt. Gee” and the others.

Sgt. Mallory Harrison, who shared a home with Gee for three-years, wrote about the pain of her death.

“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 the things she loved, helping people. … And then there was an explosion. She was .”

.

Gee’s Insta page shows another photo with her in fatigues holding a rifle while walking alongside a line of people who are stepping into the belly of large transport planes. She wrote: “Escorting evacuees onto the bird.”

Darin Taylor Hoover | Aliso Viejo

Hoover was born in Utah and had been living in Orange County since his twenties.

“His life revolved around his family, the Marine Corps, and the men he served,” his girlfriend, Nicole Weiss, said in a statement. “It has been an honor and privilege to have stood beside him and to have the opportunity to love and share a beautiful life with him. I know in my heart that Taylor would want us all to be celebrating his life and coming together — not in mourning.”

Hoover 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 to protect those who can’t, and doing what he loved for his country,” he stated.

Darin Hover said that he had heard from many Marines who considered him a mentor.

” They look back at him and say that they have learned so much from him,” DarinHoover stated. “One heck of a leader.”

The Associated Press, City News Service, Merrie Monteagudo and Shelby Grad contributed to this report.

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