Summerville High School sophomore Ashlyn Keith was looking for a way to honor the 13 American service members who were killed in an Aug. 26 suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Using an unexpected day off from school, money from the cattle business she started last year, and welding skills she honed while growing up around her father’s workshop, the enterprising 15-year-old has created a memorial for the fallen heroes.
“It was so sad to hear about all that’s happening, so I thought it would be a nice way to pay respect,” Keith said.
Keith welded together 13 metal crosses and attached them to American flags that now stand along Tuolumne Road near the entrance to her family’s ranch property.
The materials, including metal and flags, cost nearly $500 out of leftover profits she recently made from selling a steer and heifer through her business, Tuolumne Cattle Co., which started when she was 14.
“People are losing their family members over stuff that shouldn’t be happening,” she said. “If that was one of your family members, how would you feel?”
Keith and the rest of the students at her school were sent home early on Thursday because of a COVID-19 outbreak that was expected to keep the campus closed through Monday.
Her father, Nick, 43, the owner of Fray Logging, said he was also at home with her on Friday due to a red flag warning that temporarily put a halt to his work when she broached the idea for the memorial to him.
Nick Keith said he only drove her to get the materials and let her do the rest. He’s taken a similar hands-off approach with her cattle operation, which started out with a few cows and has grown to about 30 head.
“I help load (the cattle) in the trailer and deliver it, but that’s as far as I go with it,” he said, adding that she helped erect every inch of roughly 5,000 feet of fencing around the ranch property they purchased and moved to two years ago.
The Keiths say they have frequently heard vehicles honking as they pass by the memorial since it went up Friday. A woman whom the family didn’t know also placed roses on each of the crosses.
People in a green van stopped along the side of the road on Monday to get a better look at the memorial as Ashlyn Keith was explaining how she put it together, while several other vehicles drove by honking their horns.
The attack that killed the 13 service members marked the deadliest day for the U.S. military in Afghanistan over the past decade of the war, which started five years before Ashlyn Keith was born.
They were killed in a bombing outside of the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul while supporting evacuation efforts ahead of the final withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country on Aug. 30.
Many of the deceased were in their early 20s, with their average age being 22. Their names were:
• Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah.
• Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts.
• Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, of Sacramento, California.
• Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, California.
• Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, of Omaha, Nebraska.
• Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Indiana.
• Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas.
• Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, of St. Charles, Missouri.
• Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyoming.
• Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, California.
• Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California.
• Navy Hospitalman Maxton W. Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio.
• Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tennessee.
Contact Alex MacLean at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 768-5175.