Family of Rylee McCollum Appear on Fox News to Honor Their Boy
The family of Lance Corporal Rylee McCollum appeared on Fox News early Tuesday morning to remember and to honor the 20-year-old Wyoming-born Marine, who was killed in the suicide bombing terrorist attack in Kabul, Afghanistan.
It was his first deployment.
McCollum's father, Jim, as well as his two sisters, Roice and Cheyenne appeared on Fox and Friends to tell the world about their boy.
"Rylee was the funniest kid you ever met," Roice said of her brother. "He just had such a great sense of humor and was always cracking jokes and making everyone around him laugh. He was loved so much and just made everyone else feel so loved."
Cheyenne, Rylee's other sister, agreed.
"He was the light in everyone's life when they needed it," she stated. "He was a gold-hearted kid and he very much put everyone before himself. Even people he didn't know well - if they had a hard day, he was the one beside them, wanting to make things better."
And then Jim, Rylee's father, spoke. In typical 'Dad' fashion, Jim was short and to the point, but viewers could see the pain behind his eyes and the pride behind his smile when he spoke of his boy.
"What they said," he remarked. "He had a heart of gold. Good kid. [He] always wanted to stand on the side of right. He wanted to do the right thing no matter what. He always was seeking justice for those who he thought weren't getting it. [He was] a good kid. And I'm proud of him."
Jim also said that Rylee's desire to be a Marine started at a young age, even going so far as to say that the kid would carry a toy rifle around in his diaper. Jim said that he had wanted to be a Marine as well, but couldn't due to a medical condition. So Rylee more or less followed in his dad's footsteps.
Jim said that Rylee enlisted in the Marines on his 18th birthday because "he wanted to do something bigger than himself."
"He wanted to do something to make me proud," Jim stated. "He didn't know how proud of him I was."
Rylee married his sweetheart at 19, and the couple were expecting a child. In his first deployment, he was originally sent to Jordan.
"He wasn't scared at all," Cheyenne said. "I think he was ready. I don't want to say he was excited, but we knew it was coming and when we got the official word, he was actually supposed to deploy in October and then that was postponed and pushed to the April deployment, when he actually left. So he had the time to prepare and get ready and spend the time with his wife. And I think he was ready to go. He knew what he was getting into and that's what he signed in for and he was just ready to serve his country."
Though he was originally deployed to Jordan, Rylee ended up stationed at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, manning a checkpoint. That's where he was when the bomb went off. He left behind his wife, Jiennah Crayton, and their unborn child.
When the Fox anchor asked Jim how Rylee's wife was doing, Jim's admiration for her radiated through the screen.
"The girl is so strong," Jim said. "Obviously she's heartbroken, she's confused, she's devastated, she's trying to process this. I love that girl so much and I could not be more proud of her and how she's handling all of this at such a young age. She is a rock. She is going to be a wonderful mother and she loved Rylee so much. She's doing well."
Jim continued, stating that 'Gigi' was "Back at Camp Pendleton. We're gonna give her some time and let her have the baby, let her get settled a bit. And then we're going to have a celebration of life for Rylee somewhere down the road. We miss her. As soon as we had to leave her yesterday, there was a hole in our heart. Wanting to be with her, we're missing my son all over again by not being able to be with her. She's the piece that brings us all together now."
The family was asked what viewers could do for them, and Rylee took that opportunity to thank their community for the immense amount of support they have been given. This included two separate GoFundMe pages that have collectively raised more than $800,000 for Rylee's family, specifically his wife and unborn child.
"The outpour of love from complete strangers and the help that we've received from the community has been amazing," Roice said. "I couldn't have asked for more. I was blown away, just by the number of people who have reached out, even just to say 'We're so sorry for your loss,' all the way to 'Your brother is the reason I didn't quit boot camp and I am so glad that I had the chance to meet him.' It's been amazing, the stories that we get from people who knew him, pictures and videos that are kind of just keeping him alive and showing us parts of him that we hadn't seen before, and we love it."
Losing a loved one, whether it's a husband, a brother, or a son, is not easy. In fact, it may be the hardest thing that Jim, Roice, Cheyenne, and Jiennah ever have to go through. Because Rylee wasn't just a Marine to them. He wasn't just a serviceman. He wasn't just a hero that the world would come to know him as. To them, he's not a number, nor simply a name etched into stone. He's not story fodder. He was, he is, their boy. And he's gone now and that will leave a hole in all of their hearts that may never be filled. But hopefully the stories that have come out about Rylee have offered some semblance of comfort. Hopefully they've reminded his family that Rylee was a hero; not just for how he died, but for how he lived.
Rylee McCollum enlisted in the Marines to make his father proud. Judging from this interview from Fox News, he did exactly that. Jim, Roice, Cheyenne, Jiennah, and everybody else that ever met Rylee, and those of us that didn't, honor him. We remember him. We ache for him and we mourn him. But more than anything, we are proud of him. We are proud of our boy.
Video of the interview can be seen below: