The remains of 13 American service members killed in a suicide bombing outside Kabul Airport on Thursday have returned to US soil.
President Joe Biden was present when the aeroplane carrying them home touched down, alongside First Lady Jill Biden.
He met in private with the families of those who died to grieve with them for their loved ones following the ‘dignified transfer’ of remains, a military ritual for those killed in foreign combat.
The dead ranged in age from 20 to 31, and came from California and Massachusetts and states in between.
They include a 20-year-old Marine from Wyoming who had been expecting his first child in three weeks and a 22-year-old Navy corpsman who in his last FaceTime conversation with his mother assured her that he would stay safe because ‘my guys got me’.
Five were just 20, born not long before the attacks of September 11, 2001, that spurred the United States to invade Afghanistan.
All of the 13 were on the ground to assist the evacuation of Americans and of Afghans who helped the US war effort and are now fleeing the Taliban after their return to power.
Mr Biden said in a statement: ‘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.’
Family members of the fallen often travel to Dover Air Force Base to be present as flag-draped transfer cases are taken off the transport plane that takes them home.
Aside from the quiet commands of honour guards who carry the transfer cases, the short prayers of the chaplain typically are the only words spoken during the ritual.
Mr Biden’s three most recent predecessors as presidents all attended such dignified transfers.
It was Mr Biden’s first time taking part in the ritual as president, but he has been here before.
Mr Biden attended a dignified transfer for two US soldiers killed in a suicide blast at Bagram Airfield in the final months of his vice presidency in 2016.
In 2008, while a senator and at the request of the grieving family, he attended one for a soldier killed in a car bombing in Iraq.
Mr Biden told CBS’ Face The Nation that he had to get permission from the Pentagon to attend the transfer.
The 13 troops who died in Kabul were the first US service members killed in Afghanistan since February 2020.
That was when the Trump administration reached an agreement with the Taliban that called for the militant group to halt attacks on Americans in exchange for a US commitment to remove all US troops and contractors by May 2021.
Mr Biden announced in April that he would have all forces out by September.
Eleven of the 13 Americans killed were Marines. One was a Navy sailor and one an Army soldier.
Their names were Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, 20 of Jackson, Wyoming; Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20, of Wentzville, Missouri; Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas; Navy Hospital Corpsman Max Soviak, of Berlin Heights, Ohio; Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, California; Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California; Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, 31, of Utah; Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan William-Tyeler Page, 23, of Omaha, Nebraska; Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23, of Knoxville, Tennessee; Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosario, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts; Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Indiana; Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23, of Roseville, California; and Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, California.
The suicide bomb attack also killed an estimated 170 Afghans, including British father Mohammad Niazi alongside his wife and two of his children. He had travelled to the country to try and help his family escape.
Today, the US announced it had carried out a strike on Isis-K to prevent a further suicide attack at the airport.
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