Massachusetts

Mass. Marine Sgt. Killed in Afghanistan Blast Given Purple Heart

Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25, was remembered at a vigil last week at Lawrence's Veterans Memorial Stadium by Gov. Charlie Baker, Congresswoman Lori Trahan and others

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The Purple Heart was awarded to the Marine sergeant from Lawrence, Massachusetts, who was killed in a suicide bombing outside Kabul's airport during the U.S. evacuation, along with the 12 other U.S. service members who were killed as well.

The 13 troops were killed Aug. 26 as they were helping to screen Afghans and others at the Abbey Gate of the Kabul airport. At least 169 Afghans were also killed in the bombing, as they struggled to get into the airport and on flights out of the country.

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Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25, was remembered at a vigil last week at Lawrence's Veterans Memorial Stadium by Gov. Charlie Baker, Congresswoman Lori Trahan and others.

The crowd of hundreds repeatedly chanted Rosario's name, sang, prayed, lit candles and offered gratitude for the the hometown hero's service and sacrifice.

With song and prayer, candles and gratitude for service and sacrifice, hundreds turned out at Veterans Memorial Stadium to thank the fallen sergeant and her family for all she meant to the city of Lawrence and the country.

Also awarded the Purple Heart were Navy Corpsman Maxton Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio; Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tennessee.; and 10 other Marines: Staff Sgt. Darin Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah; Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23, of Sacramento, California; Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, California; Cpl. Daegan Page, 23, of Omaha, Nebraska; Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Indiana; Lance Cpl. David Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas; Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20, of St. Charles, Missouri; Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyoming; Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, California, and Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California.

President Joe Biden has called the fallen military members heroes who represent the best of America.

Rosario was assigned to the 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade and was helping to process the crowd flocking to Kabul's international airport amid the frantic evacuation of the U.S. and its allies when the suicide bombing took place.

A 2014 graduate of Lawrence High School, Rosario spent a semester at Bridgewater State University before enlisting as a full-time U.S. Marine.

Sgt. Johanny Rosario was honored at a vigil Tuesday in her hometown of Lawrence, Massachusetts. Mayor Kendrys Vasquez and Gov. Charlie Baker spoke at the service.

At the vigil, Baker said he was proud of and inspired by the person she became: "a proud Dominican American, a daughter, sister, girlfriend and auntie. A student and a teacher. A caretaker. A United States Marine."

“Her mission was an honorable one,” Trahan said. "Working around the clock to get Americans and our allies to safety.

American flags were arrayed around the stadium, and Lawrence's mayor had asked attendees to wear black ribbons.

The Marine was remembered by attendees as a protector of the most vulnerable, and the leader of the pack at home.

“The vigil was more like a send-off for her,” said Lawrence resident Iris Rivera. “Let her know and her family know that we’re blessed to have her and everything she did for us.”

The community promised to never forget her name or her sacrifice.

“I hope you all take a moment and remember one of our brightest stars,” Baker said. “Johanny Rosario Pichardo.”

NBC/The Associated Press
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