Massachusetts Marine Killed in Kabul: ‘When She Walked Into the Room, Everybody Noticed Her’

August 29, 2021Maggie BenZvi
Johanny Rosario Pichardo was remembered by friends as someone who sought ways to help those in need. Photo courtesy USMC.

Johanny Rosario Pichardo was remembered by friends as someone who sought ways to help those in need. Photo courtesy USMC.

When she was a teenager in Lawrence, Massachusetts, Johanny Rosario Pichardo volunteered at a meal center run by St. Patrick Parish. Whether she was volunteering or drilling as a JROTC cadet at Lawrence High School, those who knew Rosario say they saw her desire to serve on behalf of people in desperate straits.

She was doing that outside Hamid Karzai International Airport on Thursday, Aug. 26, when a suicide bomber struck, killing 13 Americans including Rosario. She was 25 and had been only a small child when the twin towers fell.

The mayor of Lawrence, Kendrys Vasquez, spoke with Rosario’s mother the day after the bombing. “She spoke of her daughter as a vibrant young person who wanted to give back to the community,” Vasquez said.

Marine Sgt. Johanny Rosario
Johanny Rosario Pichardo was in her seventh year in the Marines as a supply chief when she volunteered last week to join a female engagement team in Kabul. She was helping move women through a checkpoint at the Abbey Gate at the Kabul airport. Photo from Facebook.

Friends of Rosario poured out their hearts on Facebook. Fellow Marine Nastassia Hyatt called Rosario her soulmate. “You were…are my other half, my whole heart, my world…pretty much my everything,” Hyatt wrote. 

Another friend, Tania Kelley, wrote, “You were my only friend when I first got to the fleet and the person that trained me in everything I knew in Supply. You were so good at your job and so good to your junior Marines.”

Retired US Army Maj. Kathleen Romano, who ran the JROTC program at Lawrence High, told the Boston Globe that Rosario “had a commanding presence about her. When she walked into the room, everybody noticed her.”

A Dominican American, Rosario was a supply chief for the Naval Amphibious Force, Task Force 51/5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, entering her seventh year in the Marine Corps.

After being deployed to Bahrain with the 5th MEB, she volunteered for the unit’s female engagement team and was screening women and children among the evacuees at the Abbey Gate at the time of the explosion.

The female engagement teams faced particularly tough duty during the Kabul airlift as their small numbers — far fewer than their male counterparts — dealt with the many women who arrived at the airport.

Rosario was the recipient of two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement medals, two Marine Corps Good Conduct medals, the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and two letters of appreciation. In addition, Rosario was at least once honored in May as “Gator of the Week” by her brigade.

First Lt. Jack Coppola, a Marine Corps spokesman, said that Rosario’s service “epitomizes what it means to be a Marine: putting herself in danger for the protection of American values so that others might enjoy them. She is a hero, and her legacy will never be forgotten.”

The 13 American service members killed in the Aug. 26 bombing were:

Lance Cpl. David Lee Espinoza, USMC | Laredo, TX

Sgt. Nicole Gee, USMC | Roseville, CA

Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, USMC | Salt Lake City, UT

Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, US Army | Knoxville, TN

Cpl. Hunter Lopez, USMC | Indio, CA

Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, USMC | Bondurant, WY

Cpl. Dylan Merola, USMC | Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, USMC | Norco, CA

Cpl. Daegan William-Tyeler Page, USMC | Omaha, NE

Sgt. Johanny Rosario, USMC | Lawrence, MA

Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, USMC | Logansport, IN

Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, USMC | Wentzville, MO

Navy Corpsman Maxton Soviak, US Navy | Berlin Heights, OH

Read Next: ‘He Loved What He Did’ — Missouri Marine Killed in Afghanistan Identified

Maggie BenZvi
Maggie BenZvi

Maggie BenZvi is a contributing editor for Coffee or Die. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Chicago and a master’s degree in human rights from Columbia University, and has worked for the ACLU as well as the International Rescue Committee. She has also completed a summer journalism program at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. In addition to her work at Coffee or Die, she’s a stay-at-home mom and, notably, does not drink coffee. Got a tip? Get in touch!

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