Vandals deface memorial for fallen Marine of the Kabul 13 on Fourth of July
Rylee McCollum name removed, his shoes stolen and American flag thrown on the ground in Wyoming
A memorial rock for fallen Marine Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum in his Wyoming hometown was destroyed by vandals on the Fourth of July. The grieving McCollum family is devasted and want to find the culprits. McCollum, 20, was killed in action in Afghanistan in Aug. 2021.
“I'm saddened, disgusted and disappointed,” Rylee’s eldest sister Cheyenne told me. “To have a memorial of any kind — let alone a hero — destroyed like that is hurtful.”
The memorial rock is on a hill on the edge of town of Jackson, WY. The The vandals painted over Rylee’s name with black paint and wrote some illegible words. They stole Rylee’s wrestling shoes and the Marine flag. They pulled out the American flag and left it on the ground.
“It is extremely hurtful and cowardly that someone would do this — especially to leave the American flag in the dirt and take his wrestling shoes —on the Fourth of July, of all days,” Rylee’s older sister Roice McCollum said in an interview.
Rylee and 12 other service members were killed by an ISIS-K terrorist attack on Kabul Airport during the bungled withdrawal of U.S. forces. His wife Gigi was eight months pregnant when he died.
The rock on the edge of town has been used as a memorial for years to acknowledge young Jackson kids who have died. The McCollums have never seen it be defaced before this.
“The amount of effort for them to hike to this rock in the middle of the night with cans of spray paint and continue with their actions shows the kind of person they are,” said Roice. “They had many opportunities to realize what they were doing was wrong and to turn around.”
I called the Jackson Police Department on Thursdsy and asked if there would be an investigation. They were not aware of the issue (the McCollums did not report it.)
Then I spoke with Teton County Sheriff Deputy Cody Wright who said what happened to Rylee’s memorial is “obviously very immoral.” Deputy Wright said he would “definitely like to know who did it” and would look into the matter.
It’s unclear if any laws were broken since items left on public property are considered abandoned.
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The memorial was destroyed sometime between Sunday night and early Monday, July 4. It happened while the McCollums were in Rock Springs, WY for the first “Liberty Parade.” Rylee’s father Jim was the Grand Marshal of the inaugural parade to honor military sacrifice.
The Wyoming News reported that thousands of people attended and paused in the middle of the parade for a moment of silence while “Taps” played to remember the fallen.
The McCullum family repainted the rock this week (see the photo below) and added “13” to remember the others who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom less than 10 months ago. But still they’ve lost a piece of Rylee.
“If someone knows something, please reach out. And we would like the wrestling shoe returned,” said Cheyenne.
Roice added, “We just ask his wrestling shoes be returned.”
Rylee’s father, Jim McCollum, wrote this poem on Facebook about the vandalism of his son’s memorial:
A simple rock on a hillside
A little south of town
A makeshift memorial, created by friends
For many, had become sacred ground
A friend, a son, a brother, a husband
The father of Levi Rylee Rose
A fallen Marine
One of the US13
A story that America knows
Independence Day in Wyoming
Celebrating 246 years
The proud and the Patriotic
Stand angry and ashamed,
Fighting back tears
The memory of the fallen, desecrated
A beautiful memorial left ugly and black
In the dark of the night
To hide their identity
A monumental POS made their attack
Two flags now lay on the soil
The Marine colors and
The Red, White, and Blue
Gone is the solemn remembrance
Taken with it,
His wrestling shoes
I'm pissed and
I don't want this shit in my town
A cowards attack in the blanket of darkness
A memorial tainted and flags on the ground
If you know anything about who vandalized the memorial and the location of Rylee’s missing shoes, please leave a comment below, or contact the McCollums on their social media accounts, or call the Teton County Sheriff’s Office at (307) 733-2331.
This makes me really angry. Expressions of contempt for us, the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Guardians, and others of the Armed Forces of the United States, are expressions of ingratitude for our safeguarding the very rights and freedoms the people of the United States possess that are paid for with our lives, our bodies, and our treasures. It is behavior such as this that makes it a challenge to recruit other people to take on the responsibility of safeguarding the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. I could contemplate the consequences that the miscreants should endure. Perhaps sending them to the combat zones using Selective Service, with the intent that they become fodder for the opponents of the United States
We live in a time where civility is lost. I’m a bit sad after reading this.
I’ve been following along and being an empathetic person, I understand the family’s feelings of loss and grief. There is line from ‘Saving Private Ryan’ that I remember, something to the effect of being hopeful that time assuages your grief.
I imagine having to confront the vandalism rips the scar open anew and brings the anguish right back.
If I could talk to the family, I’d only remind them we aren’t all that way. Only people who with small minds act like this & to not let ignorance rob them of the heroism that runs in their blood.