JACKSON — Hundreds of people, including Marines, came to celebrate the life of Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum on Saturday at a ranch in Jackson, Wyoming.
McCollum, 20, from Jackson, was killed by a suicide bomber when he was manning a checkpoint in Afghanistan on Aug. 26. He was helping the evacuation efforts.
On Saturday afternoon, Marines escorted Rylee’s wife, Gigi, and their baby, along with Rylee’s father, Jim, and sisters out of yellow school buses to the memorial service. Marines flew in from Camp Pendleton in California to the service.
The service for McCollum was held at the Gill Ranch located off of South Park Loop Road. The McCollum family invited anyone to come.
Many cried as they heard stories about McCollum from family members.
“I’ll miss his infectious smile. I’ll miss our sibling dates. Rylee and I would go to a dinner and a movie just me and him every once in a while. It was always the best time,” said a tearful Cheyenne McCollum, one of McCollum’s sisters.
Rylee was the only boy in his family. He had three sisters and was raised by his single father.
McCollum made his father, Jim, very proud. Jim wanted to serve in the military but couldn’t due to medical reasons.
“Rylee called me on his 18th birthday from school, ‘Dad, I need you to come sign some papers for me, I am joining the Marines.’ I dropped everything I was doing. I left work, got to the school as fast as I could to hug my kid. I was proud of him,” said Jim, tearing up.
McCollum got married to Gigi before he went on his first deployment to Jordan. He was assigned to Afghanistan shortly after.
“Gigi brought out the best in Rylee,” said Jim.
Gigi just gave birth to their daughter last month in September and named her Levi Rylee Rose. McCollum had big plans to serve in uniform, come home to Wyoming to teach history, coach wrestling and become a father.
Though his family will miss him, they know he died a hero.
“He made the ultimate sacrifice. Not for himself, not for somebody close to him but for people he didn’t even know,” said Jim.
The senators and governor of Wyoming were present at the memorial service to honor McCollum.
“Rylee McCollum’s life demonstrated the best of our nation. His dad, Jim, told me that Rylee was full-blooded, red, white, and blue,” said John Barrasso, U.S. Senator of Wyoming.
Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon had ordered both the United States and Wyoming State flags be flown at half-staff statewide on Saturday in honor of McCollum.
“Wyoming hurts today. We lost a good one,” said Gordon at the service.