Many of Wyoming’s elected officials spoke out on Friday upon hearing the news that one of the Marines killed in a terrorist attack in Afghanistan was from Wyoming.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow was the first to issue a statement expressing condolences for Rylee McCollum, a 2019 graduate of Jackson High School.
“Saying that I am grateful for Rylee’s service to our country does not begin to encapsulate the grief and sadness I feel today as a mother and as an American,” Balow said in a release.
“My heart and prayers are with Rylee’s family, friends, and the entire Jackson community,” she said.
“We will find many ways to honor Rylee for this ultimate and untimely sacrifice in the coming months and years – but for now, my arms are wrapped around Rylee’s loved ones from afar and I pray they find some comfort.”
McCollum, who also graduated from Summit Innovations School, was married and his wife was expecting a child in three weeks.
McCollum’s sister, Roice, told the Casper Star Tribune that being a Marine was a lifelong ambition for him.
“He wanted to be a Marine his whole life and carried around his rifle in his diapers and cowboy boots,” Roice McCollum said. “He was determined to be in infantry… Rylee wanted to be a history teacher and a wrestling coach when he finished serving his country. He’s a tough, kind, loving kid who made an impact on everyone he met. His joke and wit brought so much joy.”
Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon ordered flags lowered to honor McCollum.
“I’m devastated to learn Wyoming lost one of our own in yesterday’s terrorist attack in Kabul, Afghanistan,” Gordon said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of U.S. Marine Rylee McCollum of Bondurant. Jennie and I, along with all of Wyoming and the entire nation, thank Rylee for his service.”
U.S. Sen. John Barrasso tweeted: “Wyoming’s own Rylee McCollum made the ultimate sacrifice protecting Americans and civilians in Afghanistan. Bobbi and I join everyone in Wyoming in mourning this devastating loss. Rylee was a true American hero. Rylee’s sacrifice will never be forgotten.”
More than 100 people were killed at the Kabul airport when two bombs exploded outside of the facility. Thirteen of those individuals, including McCollum, were U.S. servicemen.