VFW Post 3006 hosts candlelight vigil for soldiers killed in Afghanistan

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 5, 2021

SALISBURY — A crowd of about 80 people gathered Saturday evening on the lawn in front of the Hudson, Miller, Tatum VFW Post 3006 to remember 13 U.S. service members killed one week ago.

An Aug. 26 attack on Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, killed 13 American troops and 169 Afghan civilians. The deaths were the first U.S. military casualties in Afghanistan in more than a year.

Saturday’s event started with prayers and the Pledge of Allegiance, but it was interrupted briefly after an attendee had a medical event in his car. The man was attended to by people at the event before paramedics arrived and he was transported to Rowan Medical Center by EMS. Jessica Cloward, one of the prayer leaders and a City Council candidate, led a prayer for the man’s health. The event resumed shortly after.

The event was organized by Post 3006 and Angie Spillman, a candidate for Rowan County commissioner. Spillman said the event was not political and only intended to recognize veterans.

Spillman said several of her family members have served in the military. She spoke to the crowd about service members and their role in her view of American exceptionalism.

“It is the American soldier who makes America exceptional,” Spillman said. “Why? Because when the American soldier signs their name to enlist, they are not only swearing to protect our freedom and liberties, but also for the lives of those across distant oceans and foreign lands. And they do it in the name of America and what morals and values we stand for as a people — values like freedom, quality and humanity.”

Spillman said the 13 military members killed are “exceptional people and the best among us. She quoted Matthew 5:14 and said soldiers are the light representing the city on the hill.

The following are names of those killed in the attack:

  • Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, 0f Rio Bravo, Texas
  • Marine Crops Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, of Sacramento
  • Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City
  • Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tennessee
  • Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, California
  • 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 D. Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California
  • Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts
  • Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Indiana
  • Marine Corps Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, of St. Charles, Montana
  • Navy hospitalman Maxton W Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio
  • Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, of Omaha, Nebraska

The program concluded with candles being lit, the “Taps” bugle call, the crowd singing “Amazing Grace” and a final prayer.

VFW Post Commander Mark Beaver, a Navy veteran, said those killed had their entire lives ahead of them. Beaver said it’s important to honor the military members and give them their farewell.

Bill Anderson, an Army veteran was part of the 269th Army Band, a member of the Rowan County Veterans Honor Guard and played “Taps” at the vigil. Anderson said it is an honor to be part of ceremonies like the on on Saturday.

“I hate to see veterans get buried,” Anderson said. “But it’s an honor for me to be able to do it.”

Anderson said he likes to see support like that of the crowd at the vigil.

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About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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