The daughter of one of the Marines killed during a suicide attack at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul was born at 2:18 a.m. Monday at the Camp Pendleton Naval Hospital, according to public Facebook posts from the baby’s mother and grandmother.
Levi Rylee Rose McCollum is the 8-pound, 10-ounce daughter of Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, a Marine with 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, who died Aug. 26 when a suicide bomber attacked his unit while they were processing refugees through the airport’s Abbey Gate.
On that day 11 Marines, one Navy corpsman and one solider lost their lives, along with nearly 170 Afghans.
Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum was just 20.
Just a baby himself on Sept. 11, 2001, the young Marine spent his almost his entire life living in a nation at war. On his 18th birthday he volunteered to go himself, his sister Roice McCollum told The Washington Post.
His battalion’s deployment to the Middle East as part of the Special Purpose–Marine Air-Ground Task Force–Crisis Response–Central Command was his first.
Just before his unit shipped off, McCollum married Jiennah Crayton on Valentine’s Day.
“I knew from the moment I met you, you were going to change my life,” Crayton said in a Facebook post shortly after learning of her husband’s death. “You are my person forever and always. You will forever be in my heart.”
By the time McCollum reached the Middle East the couple was expecting their first child.
“Welcome to the world my sweet baby,” Jiennah Crayton, the Marine’s wife and Levi’s mother said in a Facebook post. “I love you with my whole heart.”
Jill Miller Crayton, Jiennah Crayton’s mother, in her own Facebook post said the baby came “roaring into this world,” in an “unmedicated, lightning quick delivery.”
Jim McCollum, the baby’s grandfather, gifted her a poem on the day she was born.
“I love you little girl
You blessed us all with light and love
When you came into the world
Hold on to your mama
She’s needing you right now
You brought the world together somehow
He’s watching over you
He loves you both so much
You’ll feel him with you always
A random feather
A subtle touch
I can’t wait to hold you
I’m excited to watch you grow
I love you little Levi Rylee Rose
I wanted you to know.”
Several online fundraising efforts as of Wednesday had raised about $1 million for the baby’s education and for her mother.
McCollum grew up in western Wyoming’s Jackson Hole area. Relatives said McCollum played with toy rifles as a toddler and was interested from an early age in military service.
He was a high school wrestler known for working hard, even before Marine Corps training.
Hundreds of people lined the streets in Jackson, Wyoming, Friday when McCollum’s remains returned home from Afghanistan. Law enforcement saluted as the hearse passed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.