Mourners in California honor 3 Marines killed in Afghanistan

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — Mourners in California said prayers and their final goodbyes Saturday to three Marines killed in last month’s bombing in Afghanistan.

Family and friends of Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui packed a church in Riverside to celebrate the life of the 20-year-old Marine from Norco.

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He was one of 13 U.S. troops killed in a horrific suicide bombing at Afghanistan’s Kabul airport, which also claimed the lives of more than 160 Afghans, on Aug. 26.

Nikoui sent videos to his family hours before he died, showing himself interacting with children in Afghanistan.

At a memorial service in Palm Springs for Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, mourners noted his final heroic act — rescuing children from a rioting mob before the blast took his life. “He died a hero saving the lives of those he did not know,” Riverside County Sheriff’s Lt. Tim Brause said.

Lopez was part of a special crisis response team sent to provide security and help U.S. State Department officials evacuate thousands of Americans and Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban as the 20-year war drew to a close, the Riverside Press Enterprise reported.

In Northern California, the aunt of Sgt. Nicole Gee remarked on the iconic photo of her niece cradling an Afghan baby in her arms. Cheryl Juels told mourners gathered in a Roseville church that the image was taken near the end of a long, sleep-deprived shift, when someone handed Gee a baby to comfort.

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To calm the baby down amid the chaos at the airport, Gee blew softly on the little girl’s face and smiled at her.

“She loved that she was making a difference, and she honestly would’ve given her life for that one single baby,” Juels said

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