Jon Veath was shocked to see a familiar name among the list of 13 service members killed in last week’s attack near the Kabul airport.
The McAlester resident and Marine reservist said he saw all the names and immediately started making a memorial made of large rocks with their names painted on and military flags to offer people a way to cope — and remind them military personnel care.
“I just hope people will see this and pause and know that these people laid down their lives to save people they don’t even know,” Veath said.
“That’s love,” he added. “And that’s what the world needs right now, is love.”
The “Heroes 13” memorial at the corner of South Fourteenth Street and East Cherokee Avenue in McAlester includes military flags surrounding a stack of large rocks — painted on which are the names of 11 Marines, one Army soldier and one Navy member died in one of American forces’ deadliest attacks in the 20-year war in Afghanistan.
Two suicide bombers and gunmen attacked crowds of Aghans fleeing the Taliban takeover of the country, Department of Defense officials said. Aghan and American officials said the attacks killed at least 60 Afghans and 13 U.S. troops.
Veath said he is a Marine reservist and remembers working with one of the killed troops — Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City — on the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines Regiment.
“Seeing his name was a huge shock,” Veath said.
Veath, an inactive reservist, saw the 13 names reported and immediately left his home to get supplies.
Rocks he carried from the backyard also replicates the tradition of climbing First Sergeant’s Hill above the 5th Marines headquarters at Camp Pendleton to honor a fallen Marine.
He said the memorial is open to anyone who wants to leave flowers, a prayer, or anything to honor the 13 killed troops.
Veath attended Krebs Public Schools until fifth grade before moving to The Colony, Texas and graduating high school in 2015.
He took a year before joining the Marines in 2016 and going on to serve in Japan and Australia.
Veath said he was on the aircraft carrier on which an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft tried to land before it ended up in the ocean.
The ship’s responded in search and rescue efforts with 23 of 26 personnel aboard the aircraft being rescued.
“I got to call my dad and my mom and told them ‘I’m OK, but I’m not OK at the same time,’” Veath said.
Veath said he returned to McAlester in February 2020 and he has seen military veterans and personnel struggle with mental health issues and suicidal ideation.
He said his fiancé, Elizabeth Cummins, helped him through some challenging times of his own and their infant son, Liam Veath, is a blessing in their lives.
Veath said he recalled his experiences after the 13 service members were killed in Kabul — and the relationships he had through military service.
He urged any veterans struggling with mental health issues to seek out help.
“You’re not alone and if you need help, get help” Veath said.