Donors Raise More Than $1 Million for Family of Fallen Marine Rylee McCollum
It's been less than one month. In that time, more than $1 million has been donated to the wife and newly born child of Rylee McCollum, the U.S. Marine from Wyoming who was killed in the suicide bombing terrorist attack that occurred in Afghanistan in late August.
Upon hearing the news that McCollum had been one of the 13 U.S. Service Members killed in the Afghanistan airport bombing, two people set up separate GoFundMe pages to benefit his family.
As of Saturday evening, the first page, 'Rylee McCollum's Child Education Fund' has raised $687,324. The description reads: "This is a fund specifically dedicated to the education and upbringing of Marine Rylee McCollum's child who is expected for September. His sacrifice at HKIA to protect the lives of those who cannot themselves will not be forgotten. Anything you can provide to aid them would be appreciated more than we can express. Bless."
The second page, created by McCollum's mother-in-law, Jill Crayton, is entitled 'Love for Gigi,' and it has already raised $232,309. In the description for that, Crayton wrote, "My heart is incredibly heavy today, in the wee hours of the morning my beautiful daughter got that knock on her door that no military spouse wants to get. Her strong, handsome, incredibly brave husband of less than a year was one of the 13 Marines that gave his life yesterday in Kabul.
She’s 36 weeks pregnant and she lost her love. I never got to meet him, but I will meet his baby, and I will love and spoil that baby forever. please hold her in your heart and soul because she needs it, this mama knows exactly what that feels like."
And a third GoFundMe page, titled 'Rest Easy USMC Rylee McCollum' has raised $66,931. Additionally, Chronicles Distilling, a Cheyenne-based 'Veteran Owned Family Distillery,' has raised more than $70,000 through various fundraisers, auctions, and raffles.
Altogether, more than 18,000 people have donated to Gigi and her baby, Levi Rylee Rose.
McCollum, from Bondurant, attended Jackson Hole High School and graduated from Summit Innovations School in 2019. He and his wife had been married for less than a year and were expecting a child, which has since been born.
According to McCollum's sister, he had been positioned at an airport checkpoint in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, when one of two bombs exploded.
When news of his death arrived back home, Wyoming's leaders were quick to offer their support of this fallen hero.
"I'm devastated to learn Wyoming lost one of our own in yesterday's terrorist attack in Kabul," Governor Gordon wrote. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Rylee McCollum of Bondurant. Jennie and I, along with all of Wyoming and the entire country thank Rylee for his service."
Senator Barrasso offered his condolences as well.
"Wyoming’s own Rylee McCollum made the ultimate sacrifice protecting Americans and civilians in Afghanistan," Barrasso wrote. "Bobbi and I join everyone in Wyoming in mourning this devastating loss. Rylee was a true American hero."
And that's not even taking into account the outpouring of support from normal, every day citizens of Wyoming and beyond.
The funds that were raised, and the speed in which they came in, were surprising. But they shouldn't have been. Obviously not all of the money donated came from the people of Wyoming, but it's safe to assume a lot of it did. Because Wyoming takes care of its own. This is especially true when it comes to people like Rylee McCollum. McCollum was young. He had an entire life in front of him but, in choosing to join the Marines, he signed a contract that did not guarantee he would be coming home.
He did that knowingly and, for that, his bravery, his courage, his heart will never be forgotten. Nor will his memory, or the memory of what he sacrificed. His wife will always be loved, always be taken care of. And his child, a child he will never get to meet, will know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that his or her dad was brave, was strong, was loved. He is a hero and that will never be forgotten.