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When Shana Chappell gave beginning to a Marine Lance Corporal. Karim Nikui, Jan. On October 4, 2001, she had no concept that the primary months of her new child’s life on this earth can be the one time when America didn’t combat throughout his lifetime. In Sept. On November 11, 2001, America was hit by the deadliest assault since Pearl Harbor. President George W. Bush launched Operation Enduring Freedom and the warfare in Afghanistan formally started on October 1st. September 7, 2001. When Shana was breastfeeding her baby within the small equestrian city of Norco – about 60 miles east of Los Angeles – she couldn’t have identified that her son, together with 12 different warriors, would die 20 years later within the battle to finish America’s brutal and tragically failed warfare. in Afghanistan.

When an ISIS-Ok suicide bomber exploded a couple of toes from the abbey gate at Hamid Karzai Worldwide Airport in Kabul at 5:36 Aug. On September 26, 2021, Karim turned the final of two,421 Individuals to die in that warfare. Shana can be the primary to say that her son’s demise issues not more than every other, but it surely would not. Each life has worth. Nonetheless, there’s something particular about Karim and the 12 others who turned identified to their households and countrymen because the Fallen 13.

By way of no fault of their very own, their deaths turned inextricably linked to one of many darkest moments in American historical past. Whereas the Fallen 13 held on to their honor and America’s humanitarian obligations to their final breath, their leaders selected political expediency over realities on the bottom and broke religion in them.

I first met Shana at Karim’s grave in Norco a couple of weeks in the past. I used to be requested to assist with the Fox Information sequence “Heroes of Kabul”, timed to coincide with the primary anniversary of the August occasions. 26 tragedy. I discovered that Shana was a tricky, straight-talking lady with a coronary heart of gold. After I requested her throughout an interview what she thought of how the leaders dealt with the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, she did not even bat an eyelid: “Which leaders?” She requested why President Joe Biden, who voted for the warfare in Afghanistan as a senator in 2001, refused to call the 13 useless even throughout his State of the Union deal with. She then prefaced her subsequent query with respect to the George Floyd household and requested why the identical talked about President Floyd, by identify, invited his household to the White Home and praised him as a hero, and never her son and others.


Shana Chappell’s son, Karim Nikui, was one of many heroic US servicemen who died throughout the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. Her son’s Marine brothers spend total weekends at her dwelling — a weekend she says wears her after her son’s demise.
(Eli Steele/Fox Information)

We are actually dwelling in hyper-political instances, however her tone struck me as extra existential than anything. She couldn’t perceive how little her son’s life meant to his commander in chief.

After I parted along with her that day, I assumed that maybe I might see her for the final time. Per week later, on a Saturday evening whereas I used to be watching a film with my two youngsters, I obtained a textual content message from her inviting me to affix her on August eighth. 27 memorial caravan from San Clemente to Norco. Identify of the caravan: “Say their names.”

The day earlier than the caravan was to happen, I realized that Biden had lastly named the 13 Fallen to mark the anniversary. After I arrived in San Clemente with Shana the subsequent day, it was clear among the many Marines—energetic and inactive—that the president’s phrases sounded hole.

Shana then confirmed me a transcript from the White Home web site the place a reporter requested the president after his speech if he had contact with any of the Gold Star households previously 12 months. Biden responded, “Not at present, however I’ve spoken previously.” Shana final spoke to the president at Dover, the place she obtained her son’s coffin. She later despatched a proper request by way of a consultant. Ken Calvert requests a gathering with the president. To this present day, it’s ignored.

As I walked amongst bikes, vehicles and raised vans with imposing flags, the scent of gasoline and the close by Chick-fil-A within the air, it turned clear to me that it was We, the Folks, and never the federal government, to honor and immortalize those that gave all the things. They refused to view the Fallen 13 as a suitable loss, or worse, collateral injury.

Shana informed me that Kareem has all the time needed to be a Marine ever since he noticed Marines in blue on the native mall when he was 4 years previous. From this younger age, he strove to conduct himself with honor and elementary human dignity. The one reminiscence that touches Shana probably the most is when the proprietor of the native liquor retailer tearfully adopted Karim and his little brother exterior. Shana was afraid that her boys had achieved one thing unsuitable. As an alternative, the proprietor informed her that after paying for the snacks, they appeared into his eyes as they left and mentioned, “God bless you.”


Junior corporal.  Karim Nikui, 20, was killed in a terrorist attack at Kabul airport in August 2021.

Junior corporal. Karim Nikui, 20, was killed in a terrorist assault at Kabul airport in August 2021.
(Household of Karim Nikui)

Even after Karim joined the Marine Corps from Norko Excessive College, he strived to be the very best. His fellow Marines informed me how he would deliver them dwelling to Norco from Camp Pendleton and, as a substitute of sleeping and fucking, push them on grueling runs and hikes, usually with heavy backpacks.

These actions had been the actions of a younger man who solemnly swore allegiance to the Marines and believed within the greatness of our imperfect nation.

Though I’ve by no means served, I can perceive Karim’s spirit on a sure degree. I usually took my youngsters to see the memorable however lovely 9/11 memorial on the massive garden at Pepperdine College, the place I used to be a graduate pupil. Because the Pacific Ocean sparkled over Freeway 1, I watched my youngsters run by way of an infinite show of flags, every commemorating the demise of an American or a foreigner. After they had been drained, I informed them that America was combating an extended and troublesome warfare to enhance the scenario in Afghanistan, the place the execution of veiled ladies on soccer fields for petty offenses was the norm. I additionally informed them how one among my professors at that college spoke with such satisfaction concerning the work she had achieved together with others to enhance the lives of Afghan ladies and ladies who had been striving to civilize and modernize their nation.

There have been many setbacks alongside the best way, however there was satisfaction in realizing that Individuals are combating in honor of those that died on 9/11, in addition to satisfaction in those that sacrificed themselves to deliver a beacon of hope and freedom to oppress aliens on the opposite aspect of the earth.

Maybe that’s the reason Biden’s departure was devastating for a lot of on this nation, whether or not we agree with the departure or not. The Trump administration and the Taliban signed the Doha Accord in February 2020. Nonetheless, it quickly turned identified that the Taliban had not fulfilled nearly all of their obligations below the settlement. That is why it got here as a shock when, on July 8, 2021, Biden mentioned, “The probability of the Taliban taking all the things and taking up your entire nation is unlikely.” He added: “The withdrawal of troops is continuing safely and in an orderly method, with the security of our troops as a high precedence…”

By August, your entire nation was within the arms of the Taliban. 16, the staggering landslide that was quicksand, and any progress made by us and the nice Afghans. The Commander-in-Chief most popular politics to true management, politics to realities on the bottom, politics to human rights, and politics to the glory of our individuals.


A military honor guard carries the flag-draped coffin of a Marine Lance Corporal.  Karim Grant Nikui.

A navy honor guard carries the flag-draped coffin of a Marine Lance Corporal. Karim Grant Nikui.
(Apu GOMEZ/AFP) (Picture by APU GOMEZ/AFP through Getty Photos)

As I drove with Shana within the trailer from San Clemente to Norco, there was silence contained in the truck. When the freeway guards blocked the freeway ramps with their bikes in order that the caravan may move unscathed, I questioned how she may bear this burden, which has solely change into heavier for the reason that latest suicide of her eldest son, Dakota, who was unhurt. was capable of come to phrases with the best way Karim was taken away.

Shana’s steadfast face broke into a tragic smile, and she or he informed me that the one factor that bought her by way of the final 12 months was Karim’s Marine brothers, the identical individuals he introduced dwelling with him when he was alive. Each Friday they get of their vehicles and drive from Camp Pendleton to Norco and spend the entire weekend along with her. It was a world to her to know that Karim’s Marine brothers thought so extremely of him that they might do it. They name her mom and so they turned her sons.

Lastly we arrived in Norco, the place a touching ceremony passed off. They sang songs about loss and brotherhood. The native pastor shared how we are able to consolation one another throughout these instances. Shana hugged everybody who was there. After that we drove to Karim’s grave to finish the day there.


As I watched Shana and her Marines drink beer and sip frozen margaritas at sundown, I assumed concerning the upcoming 9/11 anniversary. After I return to flags on the Pepperdine garden with my youngsters this 12 months, I do know it will not be the identical. The hope and satisfaction I had in years passed by.

On the similar time, I can not depart my youngsters with out hope. I’ll begin by telling them how our authorities failed in Afghanistan to allow them to be taught the reality about what occurred there.

Then I’ll inform them about Karim and the opposite 13 Fallen Ones. I’ll inform them how Karim grew up in an America like theirs, the place academics, pastors, coaches, neighbors, and oldsters taught them the worth of life, honor, and primary human kindness. I’ll inform them how Karim answered the decision to go to Afghanistan with out query, even when your entire nation was in free fall. He and his fellow warriors had been greeted by a determined sea of ​​humanity bearing down on them, pleading for freedom. Sewage lined the streets together with the corpses. Even then Karim and others gave away their water and rations. They didn’t take into consideration their very own lives, serving to strangers to flee. On his final day, Karim saved three households and was elevating the boy when the bomb went off. Till their final breath, every of the 13 Fallen by no means betrayed America. Then I’ll inform my youngsters that this very hope is made attainable by the selfless heroism of the Fallen 13, which we should maintain on to and construct on as we transfer ahead into an unsure future.


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