President Biden traveled on Sunday to his home state of Delaware, where Dover Air Force Base hosts the arrival of U.S. troops killed in foreign combat.
Biden stood at the solemn event honoring the 13 U.S. service members killed in last week's suicide bombing at Hamid Karzai International Airport, where the U.S. has been scrambling to evacuate its citizens and Afghan refugees ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline for withdrawing from the country. The attack also killed at least 170 Afghans.
The Air Force says the “dignified transfer” event is “conducted for every U.S. military member who dies in the theater of operation while in the service of their country,” with a senior-ranking officer presiding as flag-draped transfer cases are taken off an aircraft. Both President Biden and first lady Jill Biden met with the families of the slain service members.
Eleven of the Americans killed were Marines; one was a Navy sailor and another was an Army soldier. They ranged in ages from 20 to 31.
The Pentagon identified the service members killed as: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah; Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25, of Lawrence, Mass.; Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, of Sacramento, Calif.; Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, Calif.; Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, of Omaha, Neb.; Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Ind.; Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas; Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, of St. Charles, Mo.; Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyo.; Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.; Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, of Norco, Calif.; Navy Corpsman Maxton W. Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio; and Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tenn.
The Islamic State terror group's Afghanistan affiliate, known as ISIS-K, claimed responsibility for the Kabul attack. The group is also considered an enemy of the Taliban, which toppled the U.S.-backed government in Kabul amid the U.S. military's withdrawal.
In a Saturday statement, Biden announced a strike against ISIS-K forces and praised the 13 slain U.S. service members. The U.S. said Sunday that it conducted another strike.
Biden said Saturday: “The 13 service members that we lost were heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of our highest American ideals and while saving the lives of others. Their bravery and selflessness has enabled more than 117,000 people at risk to reach safety thus far. May God protect our troops and all those standing watch in these dangerous days.”
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