Brother of Abbey Gate Marine Dies Next to Memorial

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Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui was killed in the Aug. 26, 2021, suicide bombing at Hamid Karzai International Airport’s Abbey Gate in Kabul. His brother Dakota Halverson left in lower picture, died in early August 2022, near a memorial for Nikoui. Their mother, Shana Chappell, center, said that Halverson had taken his own life after struggling with the loss of Nikoui. Photos courtesy of Shana Chappell/Facebook. US Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser.

Dakota Halverson would disappear some evenings, his mom said, so he could “sneak into the cemetery at night and sleep” next to his brother’s grave.

Halverson’s brother, Kareem Nikoui, was a 20-year-old US Marine killed in the suicide bombing attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport’s Abbey Gate in Kabul on Aug. 26, 2021.

In early August 2022, Halverson took his own life while sitting near a stone memorial to Nikoui in their hometown of Norco, California.

“The month Of August has been very hard so far with the one year coming up. I look at my kids as strong and like they can handle anything. That was my mistake,” the two men’s mother, Shana Chappell, wrote in a series of Facebook messages.

Halverson’s body was found on Aug. 9, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, near a memorial stone that had been added to a local park in the last year for Nikoui.

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Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui from Norco, California, was among the 13 US service members killed Aug. 26, 2021, in a suicide bombing at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport. Photo courtesy of Facebook.

Photo courtesy of Facebook.

The months after Nikoui’s death were difficult for Halverson, Chappell said in a series of Facebook posts this week. Though Halverson was 28 when he died, and Nikoui graduated high school in just 2019, the young Marine had been a strong influence on Halverson.

“Kareem and Dakota were close and Kareem started acting like a father figure to Dakota once he became a Marine,” Chappell wrote. “Funny how becoming a Marine can make a boy grow up so fast into a man.”

Since the 2021 blast, Chappell and Halverson often visited Nikoui’s grave and memorial together, Chappell wrote.

“Kareem was always letting Dakota know he was gonna help him straighten out his life,” Chappell wrote. On one visit in early August, she wrote, “we were sitting up at Kareem’s resting place and Dakota stood in front of Kareem’s headstone and i heard him say ‘I did it Kareem and I know you are proud of me, i love you brother.’”

He died a week later, Chappell wrote.

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Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui. Photo courtesy of Shana Chappell/Facebook.

Police found Halverson’s body Aug. 9 at Pikes Peak Park in Norco, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

Along with a memorial stone for Nikoui, the park is home to a memorial garden for 14 victims of a 2015 mass shooting in nearby San Bernardino and adjacent to the George A. Ingalls Veterans Memorial Plaza, where Nikoui’s name is inscribed on a memorial.

“His grief over Kareem was more than he could handle,” Chappell said. “The shock phase set in within minutes of the police informing me of my son’s death. I recognized this feeling, it was the same feeling i had on August 26, 2021 when i got the news about Kareem.”

“I lost two sons in less than one year, both of them in the month of August! My son Dakota was an amazing son. Like all of my kids, he had a heart of Gold. He would do anything for anyone.”

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Matt White is a senior editor for Coffee or Die Magazine. He was a Pararescueman in the Air Force and the Alaska Air National Guard for eight years and has more than a decade of experience in daily and magazine journalism. He also teaches journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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