U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Kareem Grant Nikoui, one of two Riverside County servicemen killed in a suicide attack in Afghanistan, was honored at a funeral attended by thousands of people in Riverside Saturday.
During the service, Nikoui's family members spoke about his courage, compassion and commitment to duty.
“Kareem had been talking about being a Marine for as long as I could remember,” said his sister Shyler Chappell, adding that in preparation for boot camp her brother would camp in the backyard without a tent and would run up hills carrying a backpack full of weights.”
“We were told just before Kareem passed that he had saved three families. He passed off a child and ran back into the crowd when his life was taken,” she added.
The 20-year-old Marine from Norco died Aug. 26 in the terrorist attack at the Kabul airport that also claimed the lives of 10 of his fellow service members, a U.S. Navy corpsman and a U.S. Army soldier. More than 100 Afghanis were also slain in the bombing.
Nikoui was among the contingent providing security during the accelerated withdrawal of U.S. military personnel as the Taliban regained control of the country.
“You see this happen all the time. And it's always kids like Kareem in towns like Norco. There's nothing I can say about that,” he said. “A lot of people ask what can we do for you, for Kareem, that he would want. And I think he would want everybody to be saved, work on your salvation.”
The service was held at Harvest Christian Fellowship church in Riverside and was presided over by Pastor Greg Laurie.
Laurie said Kareem became a born-again Christian in 2016.
“Why such young men? No one can answer these questions,” Laurie told mourners. “We can't answer those why questions, so I don't know. But what do I know? Well, I know God loved and loves Kareem. I know he loves the family. I know Kareem loved the Lord. I know Kareem is in heaven. I know we will see him again. This is the great promise we have.”
Kareem's remains were returned a day ahead of the funeral. On Friday, mourners gathered roadside, waving American flags along the procession route from Ontario International Airport to Crestlawn Mortuary in Riverside.
A remembrance service was also held for Kareem at George Ingalls Equestrian Center on Sept. 4.
“(Nikoui), who graduated from Norco High School in 2019 and served in JROTC, was committed to serving his country and is survived by his mother, father and siblings,” according to a Norco city statement issued soon after the airport attack. “Nikoui's name will be enshrined on the `Lest We Forget Wall' at Ingalls Veterans Memorial Plaza, which honors Norconians who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our nation.”
Another Riverside County resident, 22-year-old Marine Cpl. Hunter Lopez, of Indio, died in the same blast that killed Kareem. Three days of memorial services for Lopez began Thursday in the Coachella Valley, where he grew up.