The Rancho Cucamonga community came together Thursday night to honor one of its own fallen heroes.
Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola was one of 13 service members killed in a suicide bombing at Kabul airport amid the U.S. evacuation of Afghanistan on Aug. 26.
“I love you son, and I can’t imagine living this life without you in it,” Merola’s mother Cheryl Rex said during Thursday’s remembrance attended by hundreds in the city’s Central Park Freedom Courtyard.
Many attending the remembrance didn’t know the young Marine but felt it was important to be there for his family.
“Somebody lost a son and a brother to protect us. It’s important,” local resident Beau Briggs said.
In his last message home, Merola told his mother he wouldn’t be able to speak to her for a while because he was being moved to a new location in Afghanistan.
Merola, who was from Rancho Cucamonga, had only been in the country less than two weeks when he was killed, family members said.
The 20-year-old graduated from Los Osos High School in 2019 and planned to study engineering in college after his military service.
News of Merola’s death was announced during a recent football game at his former high school.
“Dylan was a beloved son, brother, grandson, great grandson, nephew, a great friend, and a brave soldier who paid the ultimate sacrifice,” part the announcement said.
One of Merola’s teachers from Los Osos High School also spoke during the remembrance Thursday.
“He was the kind of young man that you always knew would give his best effort and make sure the job was done, and done right,” Randy Shorts said.
Merola joined the Marines because he wanted to learn discipline and wanted to make a difference, Shorts said.
Rancho Cucamonga officials plan to honor Merola at a future city council meeting by displaying an Armed Forces banner in his name, embellished with a gold star. The honor is reserved for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our nation, the city’s website stated.
No details on funeral arrangements for Merola have been released.