Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, who was a baby at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks that prompted the United States to invade Afghanistan, was one of the 13 U.S. service members killed during the bomb attack outside the Kabul airport Thursday, KIRO reported.
McCollum, a Wyoming native, was expecting his own baby in about a month.
McCollum was one of the first U.S. victims to be identified in the attack, which also killed at least 170 Afghans, according to The New York Times. It was the highest U.S. death toll in a single Afghanistan attack in 10 years, The Times noted.
Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon (R) confirmed the news on Twitter, saying that he was “devastated to learn Wyoming lost one of our own in yesterday’s terrorist attack in Kabul.”
I’m devastated to learn Wyoming lost one of our own in yesterday’s terrorist attack in Kabul. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Rylee McCollum of Bondurant. Jennie and I, along with all of Wyoming and the entire country thank Rylee for his service.
— Governor Mark Gordon (@GovernorGordon) August 27, 2021
McCollum’s father Jim told The New York Times that after he heard news of the attack outside the airport, he reached out to his son on a messaging app but did not hear back.
“In my heart yesterday afternoon, I knew,” McCollum’s father said.
He told the Times in a phone interview that his son had been guarding a checkpoint when the explosion tore through the main gate at the airport where civilians have congregated to escape the country.
McCollum’s father told the newspaper that two Marines knocked on his door at 3:30 a.m. to deliver the news.
McCollum got married just before his deployment in April, and his wife is currently on a base in San Diego, according to East Idaho News.
Roice, McCollum’s sister, told the Casper Star-Tribune that becoming a Marine had always been her brother’s dream.
“He wanted to be a Marine his whole life and carried around his rifle in his diapers and cowboy boots. He was determined to be in (the) infantry,” she said. “Rylee wanted to be a history teacher and a wrestling coach when he finished serving his country. He’s a tough, kind, loving kid who made an impact on everyone he met. His joke and wit brought so much joy.”