AKRON, Ohio — An Ohio Navy hospital corpsman is among the 13 Americans and more than a hundred Afghans killed in a suicide bombing Thursday near Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, a school district confirmed Friday.
Maxton “Max” Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, was a 2017 graduate of Edison High School in Milan, where he was on the football, track, wrestling, and tennis teams and was in the school band, according to Thomas Roth, superintendent of Edison Local School District.
The news of Soviak’s death was “devastating for us,” Roth said Friday.
“He just enjoyed life. He was full of life. He was a good kid, a good student and people just enjoyed being around him,” the superintendent said.
The Navy issued a statement Friday on behalf of the Soviak family describing him as “a wonderful son who loved his family, his community, and was proud to serve in the U.S. Navy.”
“He was excited about the opportunities the Navy would offer him and planned to make the Navy a career. We are incredibly proud of his service to our country,” the statement said.
“As we mourn the loss of our son, we also mourn for the loss of the Marines and Soldier who were killed and pray for the speedy recovery of all of those wounded in Afghanistan. Words cannot express how heartbroken we are with this news and we will miss Max tremendously.”
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The small community about 50 miles west of Cleveland was mourning Soviak’s loss and planned to have a moment of silence at Friday night’s high school game against Bellevue, Roth said, adding that the district was still in the planning stages of honoring Soviak.
He said it is always special when students from Edison local schools enter military service, and the community was proud of Soviak serving as a Navy hospital corpsman.
“We’re very proud of all of our students who move on to the military life as they graduate … to protect the rest of us, we’re just so proud of those kids.”
Roth said Soviak represented the school and community with great honor.
“He and his family are in all of our thoughts and prayers,” Roth said.
In a statement on Facebook on Friday morning, the Berlin Township Fire Department wrote: “Berlin Heights lost one of its own Thursday serving in Afghanistan. We send our condolences out to the Soviak family. Max will never be forgotten, and will always be remembered as an American Hero.”
“The entire community is heartbroken by this sad news,” the department said.
On Instagram, Max’s sister Marilyn Soviak posted Friday, “I’ve never been one for politics and i’m not going to start now. What I will say is that my beautiful, intelligent, beat-to-the-sound of his own drum, annoying, charming baby brother was killed yesterday helping to save lives.”
Vince Ragnoni, who was Soviak’s instructer when he attended a public vocational school during his junior and senior years of high school, said Soviak was “so friendly, very competitive, and was always pulling shenanigans.”
“He liked to get people to laugh,” Ragnoni said in a statement. “I was honored to have been able to have him as a student. His parents were so supportive, and you knew he was very loved.”
John Hartman, 85, a Berlin Township resident his entire life, said he shed tears when he heard about Soviak’s death.
“Just knowing that a young man from a small community lost his life for what the hell for,” Hartman said. “It’s just not right.”
Hartman said his youngest daughter graduated with Soviak’s father and that it was a sad day for the close-knit community of around 700 people.
He said he remembers when people coming back from World War ll would talk about lives lost and that “it’s coming back to haunt us” with the tragic news from Afghanistan.
“It’s just devastating,” said Sandra Shievely, who worked with Soviak’s grandmother for the Edison school district. “I knew the family, I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose a grandson.”
Tom Davis, treasurer for the American Legion in Berlin Heights, said the legion lowers flags to half-staff and will provide an honor guard and gun salute to those who have been killed in action. He said the legion post’s officers will go to Soviak’s funeral.
Edison Chargers Head Coach Jim Hall said Soviak was loyal, honest, tough and a great friend. But above all else, he was passionate.
“He kind of wore his emotions on his sleeve, and that’s how he played football for us too,” Hall said.
Soviak was part of a team that won back-to-back regional titles. Hall said Soviak played special teams as a sophomore, and was a role player as a junior before becoming one of the the team’s starting linebackers his senior year. He was also one of the team’s fullbacks.
He said Soviak loved a challenge, and he doesn’t think anyone was surprised when Soviak chose to serve his country after high school.
Hall said in the small community Soviak grew up in, his personality drew many people to him.
“It is devastating to lose a kid like that,” Hall said. “It’s so senseless. There’s no rhyme or reason.”
When Hall thinks about Soviak, he remembers a player who was tough as nails, but always had a smile on his face. Soviak was a multi-sport athlete, also wrestling and running track.
Hall thinks of the times Soviak’s passion led to big plays, like a sack he made on fourth-down during a regional final game in the middle of a snowstorm.
He said he expects Soviak’s death to be hard for the team and school to grapple with.
“It’s really hard to process,” Hall said. “It’s hard to even believe that this is true.
Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday night ordered all U.S. and Ohio flags in the state to be flown at half-staff on all public buildings and grounds until sunset Monday to honor the lives of U.S. service members and other victims killed in the Kabul attack.
The death toll from the blast includes 11 U.S. Marines, a Navy hospital corpsman, and one Army soldier, American officials said. At least 18 U.S. service members were injured. It was the deadliest day for American forces in Afghanistan since August 2011.
About 169 Afghan people died, officials told the Associated Press. CBS News was reporting that number at 170.
“We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” President Joe Biden said on Thursday evening.