Police: Memorial to 13 U.S. Service Members Killed In Kabul Terror Attack Vandalized

A memorial honoring the 13 U.S. service members killed in last month’s ISIS-K terror attack at the Kabul airport has been vandalized, according to police. 

Thirteen American flags, each one representing one of the individuals killed in the attack, alongside a Marine Corps flag, had been displayed on a freeway bridge in Riverside, California as a memorial. But according to local police, the memorial was found vandalized on Labor Day. 

On Facebook, Riverside Police announced on Tuesday that they were investigating the vandalism. Photos of the flags appear to reveal that the portions of some of the flags were cut or torn. 

Recently after the deaths of our 13 United States Service Members killed in Afghanistan, 13 American Flags and 1 Marine Corp flag were placed on the fence to the Ivy Street overpass to the 91 Freeway in Riverside as a memorial. Sometime yesterday, an observant citizen noticed the flags appeared to be damaged and it was reported to the police,” Riverside Police wrote.

They added, “At this point, we don’t have any suspect description but it’s obvious the flags were intentionally damaged.”

Riverside Police also thanked the group “What is Going on in Riverside County” for alerting them to the vandalism. They noted that the damaged flags would be removed and turned over to a local Boy Scout troop for proper handling and appropriate retirement.

As local news outlet KTLA reported, three of the Marines being honored by the memorial, Kareem Nikoui, 20, Dylan Merola, 20, and Hunter Lopez, 22, were from Southern California. Ten other service members from others parts of the country were also killed in the suicide bombing, which occurred in the final days of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

“I want to say it’s insane, it really is. I mean who would do that? I mean it represents something to all of us, but more importantly to the families of these thirteen,” Riverside Officer Ryan Railsback told KTLA on the vandalism to the flags. 

“It broke my heart, not only for me, but for their family, for their country that they died serving and protecting for us to have our freedom,” said Steve Johnson, who reportedly helped remove the damaged flags. 

KTLA also reported that, less than a day after the first memorial was defaced, new flags were placed by community members. A similar display had also been placed at another overpass in the area.

Other memorials and vigils for the fallen service members have been hosted all around the country including North Carolina and Tennessee.

“It’s the manner in which it happened, you could say, it was probably more tragic than if they were on an actual campaign,” said T.J. Miles, a veteran who attended the service in Johnson City, TN. “And you’re doing humanitarian work is the worst part, they weren’t supposed to be fighting. They were supposed to be there helping, so it makes it even harder.”

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