NFM Lending is pleased to honor Lance Corporal David Lee Espinoza, USMC, as the NFM Salute for October 2021.
Espinoza grew up in Rio Bravo, TX. Even as a young child, he dreamed of becoming a Marine and protecting his country. “He was just wanting to do the best he could to help out,” said his mother, Elizabeth Holguin.
His stepfather, Victor Dominguez, remembers how Espinoza took an early interest in marksmanship, practicing his skills with a BB gun. “We knew that his passion for that military was in his future.” As he grew older, Espinoza’s passion for the Marines only grew stronger. In his senior year of high school, he participated in physical training exercises with the Marine recruiting branch in Laredo. When he graduated from Lyndon B. Johnson High School in 2019, he followed his dream and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. Espinoza went to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego and School of Infantry West at Camp Pendleton.
When he graduated from training, Espinoza officially became part of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment of the 1st Marine Division. Soon after graduation, he deployed to Jordan on April 20, 2021. Four months later, he was sent to Afghanistan to facilitate the U.S. withdrawal from the country. On August 15, 2021, Kabul was captured by the Taliban, causing widespread panic among locals. As U.S. personnel were departing, thousands of Afghan citizens clamored to evacuate, adding to the chaos. What was supposed to be a short mission for Espinoza turned out to be his final one.
On August 26, 2021, Espinoza and his fellow Marines assisted with the evacuation at Kabul International Airport when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive belt. Initial news reports did not name the victims, and Espinoza’s family hoped he was only among the injured. But the blast killed Espinoza, 12 other U.S. service members, and over 160 Afghan civilians. Espinoza was 20 years old and had only been in Afghanistan for one week. Elizabeth had her last conversation with her son the day before, where he told her he loved her. “I told him I loved him and to take care. We were waiting for him to come back,” she recalls.
Espinoza was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
The loss of their beloved son and brother is still raw for the family. “There’s good days and there’s bad days. I try to stay strong for my other children,” said Elizabeth. “I don’t like them to see me down. For them I’m staying strong. I know my hero, my David, wouldn’t want me to be sad, but there’s days I can’t prevent it. It’s day by day.” Still, Espinoza’s parents have found solace in the fact that his life had meaning, and his death was not in vain. “He loved it, he embraced it [being a Marine]. You know what he did, and so as parents, we couldn’t be prouder of him,” said Victor. “I know the situation that happened is not what you would expect as a parent, but knowing he lived and did what he loved, that means a lot to us.”