Barrasso Honors Fallen Marine Rylee McCollum On Senate Floor
Days after Rylee McCollum was was brought back home with a battle hero's welcome, Senator John Barrasso paid tribute to the fallen marine with a speech on the senate floor.
"Madame President, I come to the floor today to pay tribute to the life and service of Lance Corporal Rylee McCollum," Barrasso began. "He was from Bondurant, Wyoming. On Thursday, August 26th, the United States lost 13 men and women in uniform; 11 Marines, an Army soldier, and a Navy corpsman. They were killed by a terrorist attack in Kabul, Afghanistan. At least 20 additional Marines were wounded. It was the deadliest day for our nation's Military in more than a decade. One of those fallen heroes was Lance Corporal Rylee McCollum. Madam President, he was just 20 years old. Rylee McCollum's life demonstrated the best of our nation."
Barrasso then went on to speak about a conversation he had with McCollum's father.
"His dad, Jim, told me that Rylee was full-blooded red, white, and blue," Barrasso said. "Jim wanted to serve in the military but he couldn't because of a medical issue. Well, his son Rylee grew up with that same great desire to serve our nation. Rylee's father said, his family said, that Rylee wanted to be a Marine from the very beginning. His sister Royce said that he ran around in his diapers and cowboy boots with his rifle. He attended Jackson Hole High School. He graduated from Summit Innovations High School in Wyoming, and he made a real name for himself all around the state as a champion wrestler. He had the kind of talents and abilities, which he could have done anything and everything. He wanted to serve America."
Barrasso said that McCollum joined the Marines as soon as he could, signing up on his 18th birthday. He said that McCollum's plan was to serve in uniform and then become a history teacher and a wrestling coach.
"On August 26, on his first deployment, he stood guard at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan," Barrasso continued. "He protected the airport as Americans and our allies escaped to safety. His mission saved thousands of lives. While Rylee was protecting others, he was killed by a terrorist bomb."
Barrasso said that Rylee had gotten marred in February of this year, and that his wife, Gigi was expecting their first child. She delivered that child on Monday, September 13. Her name is Levi Rylee Rose McCollum.
"His child will never know Rylee, yet his child will always know that Rylee McCollum, her father, was a hero."
Barrasso said that he stood next to Rylee's family at the airport in Jackson, Wyoming, as Rylee's casket was brought home.
"Madam President, people in Wyoming and all across America have shown their love and respect and appreciation and admiration for Rylee and his family," Barrasso said. "People have already donated close to a million dollars to help Gigi and the baby. They donated these funds through a GoFundMe page on the internet, and it's a testament to the gratitude of the American people for the life and service of Rylee McCollum."
Senator Barrasso then shared a story with the floor about a conversation that a family friend in Jackson had with Rylee and a friend of his. According to the family friend, Rylee once said that "If anything happened to us, just know we were doing what we loved."
"What Rylee McCollum loved was protecting others," Barrasso said. "What Rylee McCollum loved was service. What Rylee McCollum loved was America. And as Jim McCollum told me, 'Rylee is standing guard tonight at the gates of heaven. Madam President, Rylee McCollum is an American hero. His name will always be held in honor throughout Wyoming. And for the half million people in our state, we all think of Rylee and Gigi and now the baby as part of our family. God comfort his family, and may God continue to bless this great country for which Rylee McCollum gave his life."
Video of Senator Barrasso's speech can be seen below: