Marine Posthumously Awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal in Ceremony at Disneyland

This story is about a young hero, a United States Marine, who gave his last full measure at the Kabul Airport a year ago last August while protecting evacuees during the evacuations that took place with the American withdrawal from Afghanistan. His name is LCpl Dylan Merola.

Merola’s story is a United States Marine’s story. The Marines are, more often than not, the first to go into a war zone and the last to leave. Last August, Merola’s unit was assigned the duty of protecting and defending the evacuation of both Americans and Afghans who had worked with the Americans during that decades-long war.

Photo: YouTube/Military Times

For Vietnam veterans, this mission brought back vivid memories of the fall of South Vietnam in 1975 and the Marines who were missioned with the same kind of duties there.

There was chaos and desperation in the areas around the Kabul Airport on August 26, 2021. Desperate Afghans were handing their children up over barbed wire to young Marines in an effort to at least get their children to safety, away from the Taliban’s power. Merola and his unit were there to help and to defend those people and the Americans and other allies who were being evacuated.

The capital city of Kabul had already fallen to the Taliban. This only intensified the tensions that were already high. It seemed that the Taliban had decided not to intervene and were going to allow the evacuations to go on at the airport.

Photo: YouTube/Military Times

But two suicide bombers changed everything that day. Merola and his fellow Marines were conducting their duties with both courage and compassion. Then, in an instant, Merola was killed by one of those suicide bombs. Many Afghans – men, women, and children – also died at that moment, and several of his fellow Marines were injured.

Merola’s mother, Monica, is interviewed throughout this video taken at the military ceremonies conducted in honor of LCpl. Merola at the Disneyland theme park in California recently. Monica Merola was able to arrange the event with the full cooperation of Disneyland and its employees. The ceremony was attended by members of the Merola family, including LCpl. Merola’s younger brother, who had graduated from Marine Corps boot camp at Camp Pendelton just days before the ceremony. The award ceremony was held in conjunction with Disneyland’s traditional daily retiring of the flag event.

Photo: YouTube/Military Times

The Marine Corps participated in the event as well, posthumously awarding LCpl. Dylan Merola the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for his actions at the Kabul airport on August 26, 2021. That date is full of irony as well, as it was the 2nd anniversary of Dylan Merola’s entry into the Marine Corps. He had joined the Corps on August 26, 2019.

We can only imagine the pain Monica Merola continues to experience every day since losing her son and the reality of now being a Gold Star mom. But she represents another reality in America today as well. Her family is part of the less than 1% of American families whose children (often more than one) serve in our Armed Forces today. She is rightfully proud of her Marine sons. But we must never forget her and all the other Gold Star Families who have given and sacrificed so much in service to the nation.

Photo: YouTube/Military Times

We must never forget, too, that, though we are not currently engaged in any large-scale wars, there are still American servicemen and women serving in some of the most dangerous places around the world at this time. And we must not forget their families. It is this less than 1% of us who willingly and generously serve and sacrifice to protect and defend our most treasured of American rights, that is, the freedom we all so blithely take for granted every day. Never forget!

We honor the memory of LCpl. Dylan Merola. We will never forget his courageous service or his ultimate sacrifice in service of the greater good. We send our sincerest condolences to his Gold Star family.

Semper Fi, good Marine!

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