COACHELLA VALLEY — The deadly attack on the international airport in Kabul on Thursday was felt at the core of the Coachella Valley as news broke that a local man was among the 13 U.S. service members killed during the bomb attack, according to the Riverside Sheriff’s Association.
The Marine Corps said 11 of the 13 Americans killed were Marines. One was a Navy sailor and one an Army soldier.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, was from a family with roots in the Coachella Valley. He is the son of two Riverside County Sheriff’s Department employees.
“We are heartbroken to hear this sad news about Hunter, who chose to follow a life of service, selflessness, courage and sacrifice, like his parents,” the news release reads.
The sheriff’s association said that Hunter Lopez was a Riverside Sheriff’s Explorer Scout with the Palm Desert Station from September 2014 to August 2017. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines and was planning on joining the sheriff’s department when he returned from deployment, according to the release.
Capt. Herman Lopez, Hunter’s father who commands the Coachella Valley’s Thermal sheriff station, has worked for the department since 1997. He serves as the police chief for the City of La Quinta, which contracts with Riverside County Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement services. Deputy Alicia Lopez, Hunter’s mother, has worked for the department since 2001 and is board secretary of the labor group. She was the recipient of the Rick Espinoza Distinguished Service Award in 2017 in part because of her willingness to provide a kidney for a young boy in need of a transplant due to a medical condition.
“Our entire community feels the anguish, and we mourn the death of Hunter, who answered the call to serve, defend and protect our nation,” according to the union’s news release. “Like his parents who serve our community, being a Marine to Hunter wasn’t a job; it was a calling. He loved his family, and as we grieve for Hunter and his fellow Marines taken from us too soon, there are simply no words to express how deeply he will be missed — Semper Fi.”
On his Facebook account, Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco expressed his condolences to the Lopez family.
“I am unbelievably saddened and heartbroken for the Lopez family as they grieve over the loss of their American Hero,” Bianco wrote. “Our entire department is mourning this tragic loss. The Lopez family exemplifies the meaning of Service Above Self.”
Hunter Lopez was a graduate of Desert Sands Unified School District.
“Desert Sands Unified School District is saddened by the news of the death of alumni Hunter Lopez in Afghanistan,” Public Information Officer Mary E.B. Perry said in an emailed statement to Uken Report. “He was a beloved student of our schools. His family has reached out directly to his former schools to confirm his passing. The entire school board, staff, and students of DSUSD share our thoughts and prayers with the family.”
The bomb was detonated in what has been determined to be a coordinated attack outside the main gate at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. The explosions occurred as the U.S. and other nations were evacuating people out of the nation as the Taliban takes control.
The death toll from the blasts includes 11 U.S. Marines, a Navy hospital corpsman, and another service member whose branch was not immediately identified, American officials said. At least 18 U.S. service members were injured. It was the deadliest day for American forces in Afghanistan since August 2011.
More than 170 people were killed and at least 200 were wounded, an official with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health told CNN.
President Joe Biden commended the “bravery and sacrifice” of the U.S military Friday, calling the deaths of the U.S. service members “tragic” and saying they died for a “worthy mission.”
“Our mission there being performed is dangerous, and it has now come with a significant loss of American personnel,” Biden said in the Oval Office Friday afternoon before meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. “That was a worthy mission because they continue to evacuate people out of the airport.”
Biden said that more than 12,000 people have been evacuated in the last 24 hours.
The Lopez family requested that donations in Hunter’s memory be made to the Riverside County Deputy Sheriff Relief Foundation in the name of the Lopez family. Donations can be sent to 21810 Cactus Ave., Riverside, CA 92518.
- Hunter Lopez: RSO Facebook
- Hunter Lopez: RSO Facebook