A resident of Norco, California and 2019 Norco High graduate, Kareem Nikoui, named for his grandfather who migrated to the U.S. from Tehran, Iran, was someone who “held no grudges,” and had “a love for kids,” Pastor Phil Wozniak said. His mother, Shana Chappell, told the pastor that her son had gone back to save a child when the bomb went off. Just prior, he had assisted desperate members of the Afghan women’s soccer team to safety. Sadly, this is not the first Gold Star family for this tightly-knit equestrian city.
Nikoui’s parents and four siblings are struggling with their loss. His mother wears his grey USMC sweatshirt daily and often drives around in her truck, flying the Marine Corps flag. She recalls his amazing laugh and the way he always tried to make others smile. He was also known for his generous nature, willing to help all who needed it. Just a few weeks before deployment, a neighbor had gravel delivered. Without hesitation, and without being asked, Nikoui simply picked up a shovel to assist. The neighbor objected but he continued saying he “needed the workout”.
Chappell said of her son, “At 4 years old, he set his sights on becoming a U.S. Marine. Fourteen years later, […] he reached that goal.” Nikoui served in the campus Air Force Jr. ROTC at Norco High. Major Paul Lorkowski, Norco High AFJROTC shared, “The word ‘can’t’ didn’t exist in his vocabulary […] if he wanted something bad enough – like being a Marine – he was going to get it.”
A go-getter he was. Nikoui was a champion jiu-jitsu contender with several national titles and one world title. He was also a self-taught keyboardist. He would simply figure out how to play songs. Sadly, his mother was not able to record the video of him that she wanted before he left for Afghanistan. It was of hm playing the slow version of the song she liked, ‘Take on Me’ by A-Ha. He was working on that as a gift for her, but only had it half finished and asked that she wait until his return.
Remembering her son, Chappell stated, “He was so perfect and special in so many ways.”
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Photos courtesy of:
Shana Chappell and Stripes.com