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‘He Needs To Resign’: Gold Star Families Call On Biden To Admit Mistakes In Afghanistan Withdrawal

On the two-year anniversary of the Afghanistan withdrawal, Gold Star parents are calling for the Biden administration to admit its mistakes and to honor the fallen.

The Daily Caller spoke to the parents of Marine Sgt. Nicole Gee, Marine Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, Marine Staff Sgt. Darin Taylor Hoover and Marine Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui — five of the service members who were killed in the Abbey Gate terror attack at the Kabul airport on Aug. 26 of 2021.

The Gold Star families called for President Joe Biden to resign and expressed frustration at the president’s lack of accountability for the chaotic withdrawal. They also requested for the 13 service members killed in the Abbey Gate terror bombing to be honored at the White House, and for Biden to finally say their names.

‘Biden Never Said The 13 Names’

The frustration at the lack of a sufficient response from Biden is greater on the second anniversary than the first, the parents told the Caller.

“This year is so different … I’m so frustrated, I’m so mad. I can’t believe that they did that to our kids,” said Carol Briseno, the mother of Cpl. Sanchez. Sanchez was 22 years old and had been reassigned to the Kabul airport after serving as an Embassy Guard in Jordan.

“Nobody’s paying for what they did. Nobody is saying ‘yes we messed up’ and ‘I’m sorry,’” Briseno added. “Biden never said the 13 names. He didn’t say the names because he knows that he failed. That he actually failed our kids and failed our families and messed up.”

Around the one year anniversary, Biden put out a statement with the 13 names. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said she had “nothing to share” about what the president would do to commemorate the deadly withdrawal.

Darin Hoover, the father of Marine Staff Sgt. Hoover, said the two year anniversary of the withdrawal is especially frustrating given that Biden still hasn’t “acknowledged our kids.”

“Biden hasn’t said our kids’ names once. Not a single time,” he told the Caller. “These kids need to be celebrated. They need to be thanked … They need to have their names said, have them be remembered.”

Darin Taylor Hoover was on his third tour of Afghanistan and had served in the Marines for 11 years when he was killed.

Steven Nikoui, the father of Marine Lance Cpl. Nikoui, said he was surprised at the lack of sympathy from the Biden administration over the loss of the 13 service members. His son Kareem was 20 years old and had joined JROTC before becoming a Marine.

“As far as any sympathy from the administration in the last two years, there has been none. That was very surprising to me,” Nikoui said. “I thought, you know, they would have reached out at some point … but that hasn’t happened. As far as learning more information about how everything had played out … we have an enormous amount of information, of steps  of just careless steps that were taken.”

“This administration needs to honor them at the White House on the lawn. There needs to be 13 pictures of these service people on that lawn — and this president, this administration needs to honor it,” Nikoui added. “I think maybe he’s trying to hide, you know, like, out of sight out of mind when you’re a kid and you’re scared. You put your covers over your head. There’s no boogeyman in the closet, right? It’s kinda like this all happened, and by not acknowledging them, I will acknowledge that this bad never happened.”

Christy Shamblin, the mother of Marine Sgt. Gee, also called on the president to host the families at the White House to honor those fallen in the withdrawal. Nicole Gee had joined the Marines in 2017 and was 23 years old when she died.

“I would love to meet with President Biden and have him outline the successes because I don’t see them,” Shamblin told the Caller. “I know that there are successes and families that are vetted and the ones who are making lives here but you know to celebrate a few victories in the middle of a catastrophe is not really rational.”

‘And I Left Weeping’

Paula Knauss Selph, the mother of Army Staff Sgt. Knauss, said she was invited to meet Biden during a Memorial Day breakfast in 2022, but that she left weeping after the president refused to take a picture near the grave of her son. Ryan Knauss had joined the U.S. Army in 2016 and was 23 years old.

“He looked me directly in the eyes as I approached him, and he said, ‘I can understand if you’re angry,’” Knauss Selph said, describing walking up to Biden in the Oval Office.

“I looked him in the eye, and with grief in my face, I said, weeping, ‘It should have never happened. We should have never lost our children,’” Knauss Selph continued. “And I was weeping and I leaned into him thinking that he might hug me or say something, like ‘I’m so sorry. I feel awful about this’ or ‘I’m so sorry about the loss of your son.’ Or something — something in condolence or anything to justify that moment of time where you share your heart with somebody. He spoke a few words with me and then he looked at me and said… ‘Would you like to get a photo with me?’”

“And I said, ‘Sir, I tell you what — if you want me to go over to hear you speak at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, then when you finish, I’d like you to walk down the hill with me, beside my son’s graveside, at his tombstone and take that photo,’” the mother said.

“He looked at me and said, ‘Oh, I can’t do that. Can’t do that. Secret Service won’t let me do that.’ And I said, ‘Well then, sir, I can’t take that photo.’ And I left weeping,” she continued.

“I’ve already met him in person and know his character. I personally know his character. So when I said to those who were interested in meeting with him, I said, ‘Well, when he decides he wants to meet with us, just let me know if he still wants to take that photo with Ryan,’” Knauss Selph said.

Biden Should Resign

Briseno and Hoover directly called on Biden to resign over his actions surrounding the Afghanistan withdrawal.

“I would say he needs to resign. Because something else is going to happen and he’s not there 100 percent to take decisions and he needs to resign. Two years ago it was the 13 kids. Maybe next month it’s going to be some other parents losing kids or any other stupid decision that he’s not capable to take,” Briseno said.

“There is General Milley. There’s Secretary Austin, there’s Secretary Blinken. McKenzie can be involved in that decision as well. Resign. The president needs to resign. Admit their faults,” Hoover said.

If Biden “can’t stand up and, in the words of our son Taylor, ‘be a grown-ass man and admit your problems,’ then absolutely resign. Absolutely, 100 percent resign. Leave it to somebody else that will step up. And take the place and become a leader,” Hoover added, noting that “our kids had more integrity in their little pinky toes than any one of those men combined.”

No Transparency

The Gold Star families also expressed frustration at the limited information the administration has provided about the terror attack, saying they receive a different account from those who were actually on the ground.

“We know the truth because … my kid’s friends told me exactly what happened. So I have the truth. I just want [Biden] to actually agree,” Briseno said, adding that the Department of Defense (DOD) report she received was heavily redacted.

In March, Marine Corps Sgt. Tyler Vargas-Andrews testified before Congress that he had spotted who he believed to be suicide bomber from their sniper perch, but was denied permission to engage by battalion commander Lt. Col. Brad Whited.

“We asked if we could shoot. Our battalion commander said, ‘I don’t know,’” Vargas-Andrews told Congress at the time.

“I want full transparency. I want everything. Tell us. We talked to the guys that were there. I’ve talked to a couple of special ops people that were training for and had another plan in place. Before Biden came, his administration came in, they were executing it and training for it,” Hoover told the Caller.

“It’s disheartening. I mean it’s absolutely disheartening. They need to come out and say, ‘You know what? We screwed up and here’s where. We take responsibility for this and this is why.’ We’re not doing any of that. Now I understand if there’s some things that are national security, tell us that, but tell us the rest of it. Why? Why did you do it this way? Why were they put in harm’s way in a manner that they were and ultimately this is what happened?” Hoover added.

Call For Change

Even two years later, the administration can still make amends with the families and the fallen service members by being more transparent and honoring the 13 men and women, the Gold Star parents told the Caller.

“I want to see honesty and transparency. Again, I’m a very proud mother of service members. I understand national security and I understand information I don’t need, but the things we’re asking for are, you know, our kids’ pictures, their memories, their cell phones, their SIM cards. And again, I understood understand they were in, while it was called a peaceful evacuation, they were in a war zone … We would like that transparency,” Shamblin said.

“It’s important to me that not only my daughter, but everybody that was celebrated and honored correctly and to do that it has to be honest and transparent,” she added. “It can’t be hidden behind ulterior motives.”

But more importantly, the parents asked that the memory of their children not be forgotten.

“The next thing. Don’t forget our kids. Please don’t forget our children,” Hoover said. “They ended this war and they ended it with their lives. Continue to say their names. Because if their names are not spoken, that’s when they are taken from us. And that’s the only thing the only two things I asked, being grateful, say their names. And never forget their sacrifices.”

The White House did not respond to an inquiry from the Daily Caller.

AUTHOR

DIANA GLEBOVA

White House correspondent.

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