3 SoCal Marines remembered by family, friends 1 year after Kabul bombing

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Saturday, August 27, 2022
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An emotional tribute was held in Norco Friday night to honor the 13 U.S. service members who were killed in Afghanistan one year ago, including three Southern California natives.

NORCO, Calif. (KABC) -- An emotional tribute was held in Norco Friday night to honor the 13 U.S. service members who were killed in Afghanistan one year ago, including three from Southern California.

Family members and loved ones gathered to remember the heroes who died in the terrorist attack during a chaotic evacuation at the airport in Kabul. Among those killed was Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui.

"Last year at this time keeps replaying over and over in my head... Kareem had a really great personality. I miss the jokes he would tell me," said Shana Chappell, Nikoui's mother.

The 20-year-old's mother is now also grieving her oldest son, Dakota, who was also burdened by grief and died by suicide at his brother's grave this month.

"I'm just still thinking 'how did I lose two sons?'," Chappell said.

Two other Marines from the Inland Empire were also killed in Afghanistan on that day - Dylan Merola of Rancho Cucamonga and 22-year-old Marine Cpl. Hunter Lopez of La Quinta.

"Hunter had a mission. He signed up to do a job, he and his friends had a mission and staying with his character, he was going to do that mission to the best of his ability," said his father, Herman Lopez.

The family learned of his death after their other son, Owen, also a service member, returned home. His brother was in a coffin.

Friday's ceremony served as a reminder to honor the fallen and the sacrifices of those families.

"These are 18 and 19-year-old young men and women that don't have to do this. You know, all our forces currently are voluntary, but they choose to sign on the dotted line for that contract... to defend our country," Lopez said.

Another remembrance ceremony is scheduled for Saturday 5 p.m. at the Fallen 13 Memorial Flower Garden in Norco.