NORCO (CBSLA) — United States Marine Corps Lance Corporal Kareem Nikoui, Corporal Hunter Lopez, and Corporal Dylan R. Merola were among those killed in an attack outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Thursday.
The City of Norco confirmed the news Friday saying the city is mourning the loss of Norco resident and Norco High School graduate U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Kareem Mae'Lee Grant Nikoui, 20, who was killed in action while stationed at the airport.
Nikoui graduated from Norco High School in 2019 and served in JROTC. He is survived by his mother, father and siblings, the city said.
"Kareem was one of the JROTC kids that we saw during a ceremony," said Norco City Councilmember Ted Hoffman. "I think he was a part of the 21-gun salute that we had here."
Norco High School Principal Robert Ibbetson said his son was in the ROTC at the same time as Nikoui.
"Just a good kid. Really had a strong energy about him and knew what he wanted to do," Ibbetson said. "It was neat to see that kind of direction and drive and goal-setting."
The city said Nikoui's name will be enshrined on the "Lest We Forget Wall" at the George A. Ingalls Veterans Memorial Plaza, which honors Norconians who made the ultimate sacrifice.
A Gold Star Families Memorial Monument is currently being constructed by a local man who is related to Nikoui.
"He is the cousin of the boy that was killed," said Norco Mayor Kevin Bash. "He realizes he's building this for himself. This is what we do in Norco. This is the kind of community we are."
The Riverside Sheriff's Department was grieving Friday for 22-year-old Lopez who was a former Sheriff's Explorer Scout for the Palm Desert station.
Lopez is the son of Riverside Deputy Sheriff and RSA Board Secretary Alicia Lopez and Riverside Sheriff's Captain Herman Lopez.
The Riverside Sheriff's Association issued the following statement:
"With a heavy heart, we announce the passing of a beloved member of the Riverside Sheriff's family, United States Marine Corps Corporal Hunter Lopez, one of one 13 United States service members killed at the Kabul airport during the U.S.led evacuation effort. We are heartbroken to hear this sad news about Hunter, who chose to follow a life of service, selflessness, courage and sacrifice, like his parents. Hunter was a Riverside Sheriff's Explorer Scout with the Palm Desert Station from September 2014 to August 2017.
Hunter joined the United States Marine Corps and was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines. Hunter, who was 22 years old at the time of his death, planned on becoming a Riverside County Sheriff's Deputy after returning from his current deployment. Today the entire law enforcement community stands with the Lopez family, friends, fellow Marines, and all who loved him, praying for comfort, peace."
Hunter was the victim of vicious evil and was killed because he wore a United States Marnie uniform with love and pride. Our entire community feels the anguish, and we mourn the death of Hunter, who answered the call to serve, defend and protect our nation. Like his parents who serve our community, being a Marine to Hunter wasn't a job; it was a calling. He loved his family, and as we grieve for Hunter and his fellow Marines taken from us too soon, there are simply no words to express how deeply he will be missed -- Semper Fi.
The Lopez family requests that all donations be made to the Riverside County Deputy Sheriff Relief Foundation in the name of the Lopez Family. The address is 21810 Cactus Avenue, Riverside, CA 92518. The Lopez family respectfully requests privacy during this incredibly difficult time. The family will share details and plans for the celebration of Hunter's life at a later date."
Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco took to Facebook Friday saying, "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.
He continued, "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."
Twenty-year-old Lance Corporal Dylan R. Merola, of Rancho Cucamonga, was also killed in the terror attack.
Merola had only been in Afghanistan for a little over a week.
"He was supposed to come home in a couple of weeks," said a loved one.
The life of the Los Osos High School graduate who planned to go to college and study engineering was honored at his alma mater's first football game of the season.
"One of the best kids ever," his mother Cheryl Merola said. "Kind, loving... he would give anything for anybody."
A GoFundMe in Merola's honor has raised more than $11,000.
Thirteen U.S. service members were killed and more than a dozen others injured in the attack on Thursday.
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