LAWRENCE, Mass. (AP) — Condolences poured in from across Massachusetts and dozens gathered in a vigil Saturday upon learning that a Marine from Massachusetts was among the U.S. service members killed in a suicide bombing at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.
The family of Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo was notified Friday evening and asked for privacy, said Jaime Melendez, director of veterans services in Lawrence, where Rosario attended high school.
“We will not allow her to be forgotten,” Melendez said.
Dozens attended a vigil in Rosario’s memory Saturday afternoon in Boston that was hosted by Massachusetts Fallen Heroes, an organization founded by veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“My veteran community is grieving. My Gold Star family members are feeling the shock all over again. Should it have happened? Never. What can we do as a community? We can stand behind our military right now and pray,” said Mary Ellen Callahan, who lost a Marine son in Iraq.
Jeff Lau, a U.S. Army veteran, led the group in a moment of silence.
“This has been a tough couple of weeks for this country, and that’s an understatement, especially for the Afghan community and for the veteran community. It’s gut wrenching,” he said.
Gov. Charlie Baker called Rosario “a Massachusetts hero gone too soon.” U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, called Rosario a hero whose “selfless service represents the best of our country.”
The suicide bombing at the airport where people were being evacuated amid the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan killed 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members, including 11 Marines, a Navy corpsman and a U.S. Army soldier.
The Dominican Republic’s embassy in the United States tweeted that Rosario was originally from that Caribbean nation.
Sonia Guzmán, the Dominican Republic’s ambassador to the United States, tweeted that the Dominican community shares in the loss.
“Peace to your soul!” she tweeted in Spanish.
Rosario served with the Naval Amphibious Force, Task Force 51/5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, which praised her efforts as supply chief this spring and thanked her for a job well done.
In Lawrence, Massachusetts, Mayor Kendrys Vasquez said he had been in contact with the family and said he and other residents were saddened that one of the suicide bombing victims “was a daughter of our city.”
The family wishes for privacy “and that their loved one be recognized as the hero that she was,” the mayor said.
Melendez said people have strong feelings about the U.S. involvement that’s coming to an end after two decades in Afghanistan.
“There are people on both sides of the fence. I get it,” he said. “This is about one of our own, a daughter of Lawrence. For us it is definitely about her service and her family’s sacrifice. That’s what will be focusing on.”
Lawrence is about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Boston, not far from the New Hampshire state line.