GOD BLESS: Hundreds of California hikers gather to honor Marine who was killed in Kabul airport bombing

Last Sunday hundreds of hikers gathered in Norco, California to honor a local marine who was killed in the airport bombings last week amid the US evacuation effort in Afghanistan.

The Norco community rallied to pay their respects to the fallen serviceman, Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, last weekend. Beginning with a $5 pancake breakfast at the American Legion Post 328 to help raise funds for Nikoui’s family. After the breakfast event, the hikers gathered at the bottom of Pumpkin Rock, where they hiked 1.7 miles to the peak. Atop the hill sits a large boulder painted to look like a jack-o-lantern, and from there hikers can enjoy picturesque views of the Inland Empire. The crowd, carrying US flags and dressed in patriotic clothing, walked to the peak, where they solemnly listened to a version of Taps played by trumpet.

Nikoui, who was 20 years old, graduated from Norco High School in 2019 and went on to become a US marine. He was stationed at Camp Pendleton and had planned to complete the hike to Pumpkin Rock with a friend after returning from service overseas.

The hike was organized by the Norco High School Junior ROTC in coordination with the local school district and city officials. Nikoui was one of thirteen US servicemembers killed in the Kabul blast, and one of four marines from California who lost their lives in the attack.

Norco Mayor Kevin Bash was in attendance at the Pumpkin Rock ceremony and described to the crowd of mourners how Nikoui had saved lives in Kabul by rushing into the airport after the explosions to rescue children. 

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