When Marine Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum of Jackson, Wyoming, was killed, he left behind a wife who was pregnant with their first child.
The couple hadn’t even been married a year when McCollum was whisked away, a fact that has left many with broken hearts for the young wife and mother-to-be.
As Jiennah Crayton began life without her other half, people banded together to let her know she was not forgotten and her husband’s sacrifice would be remembered.
“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,” Jill Miller Crayton, Jiennah’s mother, posted on Facebook after the horrible news.
“Her strong, handsome, incredibly brave husband of less than a year was one of the 13 soldiers that gave their 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.
“[P]lease hold her in your heart and soul because she needs it, this mama knows exactly what she’s going though.”
GoFundMes were started, and local companies banded together to support the family.
Chronicles Distilling in Cheyenne was one of the groups that hosted a fundraiser for the McCollums, and they were able to secure over $73,000, according to the Cowboy State Daily.
“The news of the Marines and sailor that lost their lives during the bombing … angered us greatly,” said Chase Lesher, co-owner of the company and a Marine himself.
“Finding out that one of the Marines … was from Wyoming and had a wife with a child due within a month made it even more emotional for us.”
So far, over $800,000 has been raised for the family, a fact that has to help Jiennah feel a little more secure in a time of great grief.
On Monday, in the naval hospital at Camp Pendleton, McCollum’s daughter was born: Levi Rylee Rose McCollum came in at 8 pounds, 10 ounces.
“[W]elcome to the world my sweet baby,” Jiennah posted. “[I] love you with my whole heart.”
The family is ecstatic to welcome the daughter of their late loved one, and the Marine’s father even wrote a poem for the newest member of the McCollum clan.
“Levi Rylee Rose / I love you little girl / You blessed us all with light and love / When you came into the world / Hold on to your mama / She’s needing you right now / You’re precious / You are beautiful / You brought the world together somehow[.]
“Your daddy / He’s watching over you / He loves you both so much / You’ll feel him with you always / A random feather / A subtle touch[.]
“I can’t wait to hold you / I’m excited to watch you grow / I love you little Levi Rylee Rose / I wanted you to know[.]”
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