Strangers donate $1 million to newborn, widow of Marine killed in Kabul bombing

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FILE – In this undated photo released by the 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton/U.S. Marines is Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20. The widow of the U.S. Marine killed in a bombing in Afghanistan in August has given birth to a baby girl. Levi Rylee Rose McCollum was born Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, Calif., according to a Facebook post by the baby’s grandmother, Jill Miller Crayton. Crayton is the mother of Jiennah Crayton, who is the widow of Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, 20, of Bondurant, Wyoming. (U.S. Marines via AP, File)

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The widow of a U.S. Marine killed in a bombing in Afghanistan in August has given birth to a baby girl. A Facebook post by the baby’s grandmother says Levi Rylee Rose McCollum was born early Monday at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California.

Jiennah Crayton is the widow of 20-year-old Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, of Bondurant, Wyoming. McCollum was among 13 U.S. soldiers killed in the suicide bombing on Aug. 26 at the Kabul airport. McCollum was on his first deployment.

Online fundraising efforts have raised about $1 million for the baby’s education and mother. The donations poured into two GoFundMe fundraisers, one titled “Rylee McCollum’s Child Education Fund” and the other titled “Love for Gigi.” (Gigi is a nickname for Jiennah, McCollum’s widow.)

The GoFundMe for Levi’s education, which has raised more than $678,000 alone, was started before she was even born. Her father was killed in Afghanistan while Crayton was 36 weeks pregnant.

“My beautiful daughter got that knock on her door that no military spouse wants to get,” wrote Jiennah Crayton’s mother, Jill Crayton, on the GoFundMe page. “Her strong, handsome, incredibly brave husband of less than a year was one of the 13 Marines that gave his life yesterday in Kabul. … I never got to meet him, but I will meet his baby, and I will love and spoil that baby forever.”

Rylee McCollum was one of 13 troops killed on Aug. 26 as they were helping to screen Afghans and others at the Abbey Gate of the Kabul airport. At least 169 Afghans were also killed in the bombing, as they struggled to get into the airport and on flights out of the country.

He was awarded a Purple Heart posthumously.

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