The deadliest day for Americans in Afghanistan became one of the most harrowing for a Logansport family.

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, had been sent to one of the gates inside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was killed during an enemy attack Thursday.

Originally, Sanchez — who was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, California — was stationed in Jordan. He worked as an embassy guard.

It was a duty that Sanchez found fulfilling and enjoyable.

But when the Taliban took over Afghanistan recently and chaos erupted, Sanchez’s unit was re-assigned because of its proximity to the Kabul airport. They were called in because “they were the best of the best.”

Those were his exact words when he told his mother, Coral Briseño, why the transfer was necessary.

“They were the most prepared,” she recalled Monday from her home in Logansport. “He enjoyed his life. He told me he was prepared for this, and we knew this was (something) that could happen.

“But we weren’t at war anymore. We didn’t think this would happen.”

Yet, the final messages from her son led to a mother’s worry. Sanchez felt sick. He told his mother that he was drinking lots of water, but he continued to feel terrible.

“He said, ‘It was nasty here. The issues were bad and it was chaotic everywhere,’” Briseño said, but her son kept doing his job. Even while suffering illness, Sanchez continued to man his post.

Then a suicide bomber with 25 pounds of explosives took the life of her son. Twelve other service members and about 180 Afghans also died in the attack.

The attack will forever change the lives of Sanchez’s family members, including his siblings: sister Carol Sanchez, a 2014 Logansport High School graduate; brothers Ariel Loran, 14, and Axel Loran, 11; and niece Dahlia Cardenas, 1.

“He told me that if he didn’t make it home, I was to tell his story, so I’m doing this for him,” said Briseño, who smiled at the reminders of her rambunctious child.

The world might know Sanchez as a man who served to protect, who held a rifle to guard those at an embassy, and who stood the ground for freedom, respect and honor.

But for those close to him, Sanchez was simply known as “Bert the Squirt.”

He was full of life and held onto dreams of settling down with his girlfriend, Taylor Duncan, of Hawaii, whom he met while stationed in California. Eventually, he wanted either to attend college or enlist in the Army to become an electrician.

“He was just a person you would want to hang out with all the time,” said Briseño, laughing at a fond memory of her son’s attempt to participate in a senior prank that actually backfired — he wound up drinking beer for three days straight. When he walked into Logansport High School, the nurse smelled alcohol.

Expelled from school, Sanchez was unable to walk for his 2017 graduation. But he still received a diploma.

The unfortunate part, Briseño said, is that when names were read of all graduating seniors who were joining the military, her son was left off.

“His friends’ names were called, but his wasn’t. That was heartbreaking.”

It didn’t take away from his scholastic accomplishments, though.

“He excelled at everything he did,” said his older sister, Carol Sanchez. “He was so smart.”

At the age of 17, he made the choice to enlist. With his mother’s permission, he chose the Marines, wanting to grasp a better life that would demand discipline and rules.

Sanchez wanted to make his mother proud.

Yet, it didn’t matter which course he pursued — whether enrolling in college or beginning a career as an electrician — Sanchez already succeeded at his goal, she said. After all, he was her son. He already made her proud.

But nothing compares to how she feels now.

“I’ve heard from a lot of good people. My son was more concerned about getting kids out of the gate” at the airport, she said.

“My heart broke when I heard that. My kid was a hero. He cared about others. That’s something that comes from inside. I taught him that, but it was because of him that more kids are alive and have a future.”

His devotion to his country — Sanchez was born and raised in Logansport — rubbed off on his twin cousins, Noe and Isai Loran, who graduated from Logansport High School in 2020. Both are pursuing military service: Noe is in the National Guard, while Isai will be enlisting in the Army.

“We’re a family who serves,” Briseño said. “This won’t stop us. We’ll continue to serve … to keep on protecting those kids.”

Reach Kristi Hileman at kristi.hileman@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5150

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