(The Center Square) – Two U.S. Marines from Southern California were among those killed in attacks Thursday at the Kabul airport.
That news comes as 24 California students and 16 parents are reportedly still stranded in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Of the 13 U.S. service members killed, two were Californians: 20-year-old U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Kareem Mae’Lee Grant Nikoui of Norco, Calif., and 22-year-old Cpl. Herman Hunter Lopez, son of two Riverside County Sheriff’s Department employees.
Nikoui is survived by his parents and siblings. His name will be inscribed on a memorial wall in the Southern California city of Norco.
Norco Mayor Kevin Bash said Kareem “was a good kid, very quiet,” and “his goal in life was to be in the service.”
His father, Steve Nikoui, told news outlets that Kareem loved being a Marine.
The Air Force JRTOC from Norco High School where he graduated, posted on Facebook that Nikoui was “one of our best Air Force JROTC cadets” and “Kareem was set on being a Marine and always wanted to serve his country.”
The Corona-Norco Unified School District issued a statement saying the “news of our former student has shocked and saddened us, and we ask the community to join us in honoring Kareem’s memory for he has given the ultimate sacrifice.”
“Lance Corporal Nikoui died while carrying out a mission to rescue fellow U.S. citizens and our allies in grave danger,” Congressman Ken Calvert, R-Corona, said after speaking to his family. “As a proud Marine, Lance Corporal Nikoui and his unit put themselves in harm's way in order to provide safety to others. That’s the definition of courage.”
Lopez’ death rocked the Riverside Sheriff’s Office, where he hoped to work one day like his parents.
Sheriff Chad Bianco shared in a Facebook post, “I am unbelievably saddened and heartbroken for the Lopez family as they grieve over the loss of their American Hero. Hunter Lopez, son of our own Captain Herman Lopez and Deputy Alicia Lopez, tragically lost his life while serving our country in the United States Marine Corps. He was killed in Kabul, Afghanistan on Thursday, August 26th. Before joining the Marine Corps, Hunter proudly served in our Sheriff’s Explorer Program. Our entire department is mourning this tragic loss. The Lopez family exemplifies the meaning of Service Above Self.”
Lopez graduated from La Quinta High School in the Desert Sands Unified School District in 2017 and was a Riverside Sheriff's Explorer Scout with the Palm Desert Station for three years.
His father, Capt. Herman Lopez, commands the Coachella Valley's Thermal sheriff station, where he has worked since 1997, and is also the La Quinta Police chief. His mother, Deputy Alicia Lopez, has worked for the department since 2001.
The city of La Quinta said, “We are all so humbled by the service and ultimate sacrifice that Hunter gave to protect our country. He was a brave and selfless soldier who answered the call to be a United States Marine. Like his parents, Hunter wanted to help serve others and protect his community.”