BERLIN HEIGHTS, Ohio (WJW) — The family of fallen Navy corpsman Maxton “Max” Soviak speaking for the first time since he was killed in Afghanistan on Thursday.
His sister Kathleen gave the public further insight into her brother’s character while simultaneously thanking them for their support. “Wish we didn’t have to know how nice y’all were, but you guys have been incredible.”
“To quote Maxton himself, ‘If the world was coming to an end, I don’t want to close my eyes without feeling like I lived,'” Kathleen said.
With immense patriotism and tears in their eyes, hundreds gathered on the front lawn of Edison Middle School in Berlin Heights for a community vigil.
“This is close to home. This brings Afghan right to Berlin Heights. It’s a sad day for America,” said Robert Utter who lives in the village.
22-year-old Soviak was one of 13 U.S. service members killed in a suicide bombing on Thursday at the Kabul airport, the last piece of the war-torn country controlled by American troops.
The village’s former mayor and current Erie County Veteran Service Commissioner Kelly Moon says the turnout was impressive.
“I’m a Vietnam war veteran. We had one person killed in ’71, he was a year behind me in school and nothing like this,” Moon said.
The community of Berlin Heights has been mourning together since Friday holding local ceremonies to remember Soviak and his service.
Current Mayor Connie Ward organized the prayer vigil and has been working with the police chief to ensure the family has privacy during this time.
“We wanted to do something to make sure that they felt the love and support of the community and that they could participate or see in any way that they were comfortable with,” Ward said.
A Navy family from Amherst was in attendance. “It’s the kid next door. Could’ve been any one of our kids and as Navy parents, it just rips your heart out. I can’t even imagine how their family is feeling. I know how we feel. It’s just broken. Our hearts are broken.”
Retired Navy Captain Chaplain Roger Pace spoke of Soviak’s heroism in helping U.S. and Afghan citizens who provided assistance to the us military flee the country.
“My heart before Max’s loss grieved at the thought friends of America, these Afghan people might well die because we could not rescue them. Max gave his life for that purpose,” Pace said.
The family lead a balloon release as so many said goodbye to a hometown hero.
“For Max, to die with his brothers serving his country, again that’s Max’s way to go,” said Kathleen.