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Marine killed during Afghanistan evacuation terror attack spent part of childhood in Grafton

20-year-old Marine Lance Corporal David Espinoza lived in Grafton, North Dakota, when he was three. His dad grew up in Walsh County and still works in the region every harvest season.

GRAND FORKS — Lance Corporal David Espinoza was one of the 13 servicemen killed in the deadly terror attack at the Kabul Airport in Afghanistan last week.

His stepfather, Victor Dominguez — who co-workers say Espinoza called "dad" since he was 3 years old — grew up in Forest River in Walsh County before his family moved to south Texas. However, he returns to Grand Forks each year as a farmhand for Black Gold Farms where he has worked for nearly three decades.

"(He) was a very, very proud dad," said Dominguez's co-worker Aaron Soukup, who worked alongside him for 20 years.

"It hurts," said Joel Horne, another co-worker. "I know Victor and his wife are crushed."

Espinoza was born and raised in south Texas but lived in Grafton for a year when he was three. He joined the Marines right out of high school.

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"I know he always wanted to be a Marine for as long as he was old enough to know what it meant," Horne said.

Espinoza was deployed to help with the evacuations in Afghanistan just one week before the deadly attack.

"Cowardly folks who had to kill a bunch of folks for no good reason other than to get their names in the paper. It would have been a spectacular withdrawal, tactically, had this not happened, it's kind of a stain on the deal," Horne said.

The tragedy happened just days before Dominguez was set to return to North Dakota and Minnesota for two months to help Black Gold Farms with its potato harvest.

"(He) could do any job you asked him to do," Horne said of Dominguez. "He was a very talented guy in the warehouse, not only operating machinery, but also fixing it and keeping it running. In the later years, he became a harvest operator and loaded the trucks."

It's unclear if Victor Dominguez will make the 1,600 mile trip north this year. Black Gold Farms has launched a GoFundMe page to make sure he gets a paycheck regardless.

"When it hits somebody that you know, you just know there is a big, big hole in his heart now, that's why you gotta be there," Soukup said.

Lance Corporal Espinoza leaves behind his parents and three siblings. He was killed on his sister's 13th birthday.

Matt Henson is an Emmy award-winning reporter/photographer/editor for WDAY. Prior to joining WDAY in 2019, Matt was the main anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks for four years. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attended college at Lyndon State College in northern Vermont, where he was recognized twice nationally, including first place, by the National Academy for Arts and Science for television production. Matt enjoys being a voice for the little guy. He focuses on crimes and courts and investigative stories. Just as often, he shares tear-jerking stories and stories of accomplishment. Matt enjoys traveling to small towns across North Dakota and Minnesota to share their stories. He can be reached at mhenson@wday.com and at 610-639-9215. When he's not at work (rare) Matt resides in Moorhead and enjoys spending time with his daughter, golfing and attending Bison and Sioux games.
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