Hundreds of people came together Thursday night to honor Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola, one of 13 U.S. service members killed in the Kabul airport attack.
The gathering was co-hosted by the city of Rancho Cucamonga and Los Osos High School, where Merola graduated in 2019. He planned to study engineering in college after his military service.
Connor Labajo, a Los Osos High choir member, opened the vigil in front of a tearful crowd singing “Amazing Grace” and “You Raise Me Up.”
“Ever since he was a young child, he would watch the military channel, wear military attire and wanted nothing more than to become a Marine,” said Merola’s mother.
“The day Dylan stood in front of my face and said the recruiter is coming to the house to sign those papers was when reality hit me that my baby boy was 18 years old and the time had come to do what he always wanted to do, becoming a United States Marine,” Rex added.
Dakota Mancuso shared his pride in his best friend. “When he joined the military I knew that he was going away, but I didn’t imagine that he wasn’t going to come back,” Mancuso said.
“I know you were going out for a purpose, I could never have imagined what purpose found you in Afghanistan. I’m so proud, humbled and inspired by you. You saved so many people and I’m so proud of you for that.”
“Dylan was a beloved son, brother, grandson, great grandson, nephew, a great friend, and a brave soldier who paid the ultimate sacrifice,” part the announcement said.
Rancho Cucamonga officials plan to honor Merola at a future city council meeting by displaying an Armed Forces banner in his name, embellished with a gold star. The honor is reserved for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our nation, the city’s website stated.
The Department of Defense shared the names of those killed, including 10 service members assigned to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and three service members from Riverside and San Bernardino counties:
- Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tennessee
- Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah
- Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts
- Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, of Sacramento, California
- Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, California
- Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, of Omaha, Nebraska
- Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Indiana
- Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas
- Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, of St. Charles, Missouri
- Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyoming
- Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, California
- Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California
- Navy Hospitalman Maxton W. Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio