U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) delivered the following remarks in tribute to the life and service of U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Rylee McCollum. McCollum, who was from Bondurant, Wyoming, lost his life along with 12 other service members in the terrorist attack in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 26, 2021.
Excerpts of Senator Barrasso’s remarks:
“I come to the floor today to pay tribute to the life and service of Lance Corporal Rylee McCollum. He was from Bondurant, Wyoming.
“On Thursday, August 26th, the United States lost 13 men and women in uniform. Eleven Marines, an Army soldier, and a Navy corpsman.
“They were killed by a terrorist attack in Kabul, Afghanistan. At least 20 additional Marines were wounded. It was the deadliest day for our nation’s military in more than a decade.
“One of those fallen heroes was Lance Corporal Rylee McCollum.
“He was just 20 years old. Rylee McCollum’s life demonstrated the best of our nation. His dad, Jim, told me that Rylee was ‘full-blooded red, white, and blue,’ and from the very beginning.
“Rylee’s dad, Jim, wanted to serve in the military but he couldn’t because of a medical issue. Well, his son Rylee grew up with that same great desire to serve our nation.
“Rylee’s father said, and his family said, he wanted to be a Marine from the very beginning. His sister Royce said that he ran around in his diapers and cowboy boots with his rifle.
“He attended Jackson Hole High School. He graduated from Summit Innovations High School in Wyoming and he made a real name for himself all around the state as a champion wrestler.
“He had the kind of talents and abilities which he could have done anything and everything. He wanted to serve America.
“He joined the Marines literally as soon as he could. He signed up on his 18th birthday. His plan was to serve in uniform and then come home to Wyoming. His goal was to teach history and coach wrestling.
“On August 26th, on his first deployment, he stood guard at the Hamid Karzai Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. He protected the airport as Americans and our allies escaped to safety.
“His mission saved thousands of lives. While Rylee was protecting others, he was killed by a terrorist bomb.
“Rylee had just been married in February. His wife, Gigi, was expecting their first child and he was excited to become a father. His child will never know Rylee, yet his child will always know that Rylee McCollum, her father, was a hero.
“On Friday, I stood side by side with Rylee’s family and his pregnant wife Gigi at the airport in Jackson, Wyoming, as Rylee’s flag-draped casket was brought home for his very last trip to Wyoming.
“And today, I got a text from Gigi with this magnificent picture.
“The text came within the last hour or so and we were able to do a blowup of the text picture. It’s from a naval hospital in Camp Pendleton saying: Welcomes baby girl Levi Rylee Rose, 8-pounds, 10-ounces, September 13, today, at 2:00 A.M.
“There’s the baby and there’s the cutout of her father, Rylee McCollum.
“People in Wyoming and all across America have shown their love and respect and appreciation and admiration for Rylee and his family.
“People have already donated close to a million dollars to help Gigi and the baby. They donated these funds through a GoFundMe page on the internet.
“It’s a testament to the gratitude of the American people for the life and service of Rylee McCollum.