Even with the location of Kirtland Air Force Base being within the city limits of Albuquerque, I would never think of this place as “a military town.” That moniker usually sticks to towns outside of Army posts that have a pathway of liquor stores, pawn shops, and (often) strip joints up to the entry checkpoint.
That said, I know that Albuquerque benefits economically from the air base and Sandia National Laboratories to the tune of a couple hundred million dollars per year. Aside from this, I would be shocked if the average Burqueno could identify which service actually ran the base.
So imagine my surprise when I walked into a Starbucks on the far west side of Albuquerque and saw the display of 13 “personalized” coffee cups surrounded by American flags. It took me a moment to recognize the names, as I thought the display was for “Hometown Heroes,” military members from the greater Albuquerque area.
A chill went up my arm when I read the hometowns and service affiliations… and knew the names on these cups represented the thirteen casualties from the attack on the Kabul International Airport on 26 August 2021.
Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts.
Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, of Sacramento, California.
Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah.
Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, California.
Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, of Omaha, Nebraska.
Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Indiana.
Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas.
Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, of St. Charles, Missouri.
Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyoming.
Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, California.
Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California.
Navy Corpsman Maxton W. Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio.
Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tennessee.
* * *
Semper Fidelis, fearless Devil Dogs.