Memorial honoring Rancho Cucamonga Marine Dylan Merola planned for Los Osos High – San Bernardino Sun

A military memorial is being planned for the grounds of Los Osos High School to honor alumni Dylan Merola, a U.S. Marine who was killed in action during the evacuation in Afghanistan last summer.

Lance Cpl. Merola, 20, graduated from the Rancho Cucamonga high school in 2019. His name will be inscribed on the memorial that honors fallen soldiers who attended the school.

“We wanted to find some way to memorialize the sacrifice Dylan made,” Los Osos Principal Eric Cypher said.

Merola worked as a theater technician as a student and often wore his Marine colors, a black shirt and red tie, while leading tech for school performances.

He was one of the 13 U.S. service members killed in the Aug. 26 attack on Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Two other Marines from the Inland Empire, Lance Cpl. Kareem Mae’Lee Grant Nikoui, of Norco, and Cpl. Hunter Lopez, of Indio, were killed in the suicide bombing. Eight more Marines, an Army soldier and a Navy Corpsman were also killed, along with 169 Afghan civilians. At least 150 more people were injured.

At Los Osos High, the proposed monument design includes six granite pillars, one for each branch of the armed forces. Merola’s name will be etched into the Marine section, said Neal Hughes, commander of the American Legion Post 835 in Rancho Cucamonga and captain of its honor guard.

“The monument will be for those lost soldiers from Los Osos High School,” Hughes said.

The school has just one service member to honor — Merola. Hughes said the design can accommodate other names should that become necessary.

The American Legion, the American Legion Auxiliary, Sons of the American Legion and the American Legion Riders, along with local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) chapters, are some of the military support groups spearheading the effort.

The American Legion conceptualized the monument and also is helping raise funds to build it.

Cypher said much of the drive and outreach to the business community for funding has been headed up by the Los Osos student group Service For Heroes Youth Organization.

“This is what has been so impressive to me,” Cypher said. “The fact that this has been a student-led drive.”

He credits student Delaney Atkinson, a senior who heads up the service club, with doing the bulk of the work so far.

The monument is estimated to cost between $30,000 and $40,000, but an exact figure has yet to be determined, Cypher said.

So far, about $13,000 has been raised, Cypher said. Some of the money comes from veterans groups and some from Merola’s family, including money from donations made to the family soon after the soldier’s death, Cypher said.

He said the family supports the effort.

“The next step is to nail down the architectural design and also nail down the dollar figure,” Cypher said. He is awaiting final approval of the design by Mathew Holton, superintendent of the Chaffey Joint Union High School District.

Once the design is approved, then the nonprofit groups and the high school can go out to bid. The monument won’t be ready for Memorial Day, as first planned. But Cypher hopes it could be built by the opening of school in the fall, Aug. 10, 2022.

And there is also the matter of finalizing funding, he said.

On May 14, the American Legion is sponsoring a fundraising event at the VFW Hall, 8751 Industrial Lane, in Rancho Cucamonga.

To sign up for the pistol shoot (7:30 a.m.) or to participate in the chili cookoff (12:30 p.m.) call the American Legion Post 835 to register at 909-996-6523.

For lunch, the food booths open at 11:30 a.m. Raffle tickets are available for sale as well at the event.

Information: 909-996-6523

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