This story discusses the topic of suicide. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.
The older brother of a Marine who died in the attack on Kabul nearly one year ago killed himself near a town memorial in California that honored his brother.
Dakota Halverson, 28 ― the older brother of Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui ― died on Aug. 9, according to a press release from Riverside, California, County Sheriff’s Department.
Shana Chappell, the boys’ mother, said that he took his own life near the permanent town memorial paying tribute to Nikoui and the 12 other service members killed in Kabul.
“The month [o]f August has been very hard so far with the one year coming up...This morning my son Dakota went to be with [h]is brother Kareem,” Chappell shared on Facebook the night of Aug. 9.
Nikoui, 20, from Norco, California, was one of the 13 U.S troops killed during the suicide bombing at Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai International Airport on Aug. 26, 2021. That attack also took the lives of more than 160 Afghan civilians.
Nikoui was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, at Camp Pendleton, California.
In a follow-up post, Chappell wrote, “Dakota had been expressing some of the things that had been bothering him and one of those things was the loss of his brother Kareem and how he just wanted to be with him again. He was still having a hard time believing he was actually gone. He’d sneak into the cemetery at night and sleep on Kareem’s resting place.”
The death highlights the depth of wounds from the chaotic withdrawal that still exist for Marines and their families. While some service members injured in the bombing are physically healing one year later ― other Marines and loved ones are still interiorly grappling with the tragedy.
“There MUST be accountability for this continued carnage,” Rep. Mike Waltz, R-Florida, wrote on Twitter over the weekend, replying to a tweet by Townhall.com reporter Julio Rosas on Halverson’s death.
The most recent annual suicide data, which includes numbers on military family suicide rates, were comparable to years prior, a September 2021 Department of Defense report shows.
Suicide rates among active-duty service members since Sept. 11, 2001, are at an all-time high, according to a USO June press release. The number of deaths also is significantly higher than the total number of troops killed in combat over the same period.
All seven former living Veterans Affairs secretaries have asked lawmakers to designate a Sunday in November as “National Warrior Call Day,” as reported by Military.com, to raise awareness on the issue of veteran suicide and encourage checking in on former service members.
Chappell began a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for Halverson’s burial and funeral costs. As of Tuesday morning, it had raised more than double its original $20,000 fundraising goal.
Mental health resources are available for veterans and their loved ones. Veterans, service members, their families and friends may dial 9-8-8 and then press 1, or text 838255 to get free around-the-clock and confidential assistance from Veterans Crisis Line.
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media