Rylee McCollum, a 2019 graduate of Summit Innovations School, was confirmed Friday as one of the 13 U.S. service members and at least 170 civilians killed Thursday in a suicide bombing at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. American troops have been evacuating thousands of Afghan civilians from the airport ahead of an Aug. 31 deadline to leave the country imposed by the Taliban, who now control the country.
An ISIS affiliate group called ISIS-K has claimed responsibility for the attack.
“The entire TCSD [Teton County School District] family is heartbroken to share the news that 2019 TCSD graduate Rylee McCollum was one of the 13 American Marines killed in yesterday’s bombings in Kabul, Afghanistan,” read a Teton County School District statement released Friday.
“We send our deepest sympathies to his family, the friends he made in our community, and the staff who had the chance to work with Rylee. We honor and thank him for his service and are humbled by his ultimate sacrifice in protecting others.”
Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon also extended his condolences to McCollum’s loved ones in a Friday statement.
“I’m devastated to learn Wyoming lost one of our own in yesterday’s terrorist attack in Kabul, Afghanistan,” Gordon said. “Jennie and I, along with all of Wyoming and the entire nation, thank Rylee for his service.”
Gordon also ordered all U.S. and State of Wyoming flags to be flown at half-staff through Monday, Aug. 30, in memory of McCollum.
McCollum was a brother, husband and soon-to-be father, according to tributes posted to him on Facebook. “We’re heartbroken but proud to have known this brave hero. Please pray for his family, his wife and new baby that will be born soon,” reads one post written by a Jackson man who said his son enlisted in the Marines with McCollum.
The post continues, “One evening as we were all having dinner, Kim tried giving her best motherly advice and suggested that they let someone else go in first if the time ever came. Without hesitating, they both said, ‘If anything ever happens to us, just know, we were doing what we loved.’”
President Biden vowed to seek revenge against the perpetrators of the attack on Thursday.
“We will not forgive. We will not forget,” Biden said. “We will hunt you down and make you pay.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: A statement released Friday morning by the Wyoming Department of Education incorrectly identified McCollum as a graduate of Jackson Hole High School. A Teton County School District spokesperson confirmed Friday that while McCollum previously attended Jackson Hole High School, he graduated from the district’s alternative high school Summit Innovations School.