Jim McCollum knew before he opened his door why two US Marines were at his Jackson, Wyoming, home.
“It was just as you see it in the movies,” the grieving dad told The Daily Beast. “As soon as I saw them on the porch, I knew he was gone.”
“He,” was his son, Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, one of the 13 US service members killed in Thursday’s Kabul airport attack. Newly married, with a baby due Sept. 22, the 20-year-old was on a path toward greatness, the elder McCollum said.
“He was the most patriotic kid,” Jim said. “The right from wrong and being on the side of right— that kind of drove him in. I couldn’t have been more proud.”
What little comfort he can find is knowing that his son died fulfilling his dream to serve.
“He died doing what he loved and with the ones he cared about, doing the right thing,” Jim said. “He always wanted to be on the side of right, the side of righteousness. He did exactly what he lived his life doing.”
At least 169 Afghans also died in the suicide bombing claimed by ISIS-K, and officials warn of continued danger amid the continued evacuation, including warning people to leave the airport gates “immediately” late Friday, in an eerie echo of warnings before Thursday’s blast.
The ongoing operation leaves the devastated father worried about the Marines still in the war-torn country now mostly ruled by the Taliban.
“I’ve lost my son, but there are still Marines over there,” he said. “We gave them everything they need, and we are pinned down at the airport. I am scared sh-tless to see what’s going to happen next, and what’s going to come our way.”
The senior McCollum, speaking before the US launched a drone strike against the terror group, was upset there wasn’t an immediate retaliation for the attack and suggested American forces should take out the Afghan presidential palace rather than let the Taliban take it: “bomb the damn thing,” he said.
The Friday drone strike against ISIS-K was apparently successful in taking out one of the planners of the attack which killed Rylee McCollum.
“Initial indications are that we killed the target,” said Capt. Bill Urban of the Central Command.