He had a zest for life.
That’s how family and friends remembered Navy Fleet Marine Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Maxton “Max” W. Soviak during funeral services Monday in Milan, Ohio. The young sailor was one of the 13 U.S. service members killed during an ISIS-K attack at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 26.
“Maxton was MAX in all capital letters, all the time,” Soviak’s sister Kathleen said during the funeral service. “He threw himself into everything he did with a fierce passion. We saw it during his high school years with his sports career. And once Maxton became an adult, he developed a passion for living.”
Kathleen, one of Soviak’s 12 siblings, detailed several of Soviak’s adventures since joining the Navy, including being stationed in Guam and finding a CrossFit community, diving off cliffs into the ocean, and swimming with sharks in Florida.
Despite these travels all over the world, Kathleen said her brother never “forgot the importance of home” and made family a priority.
“He officiated not one but two weddings, one of which was our sister’s,” Kathleen said. “And my personal, most memorable moment of him that day was his solo dance to ‘In the Navy’ in the middle of the dance floor.”
Soviak, 22, was assigned to 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, out of Camp Pendleton, California, and first enlisted in the Navy in 2017. He died with 11 other Marines and one soldier who were helping process Afghan refugees at the airport’s Abbey Gate.
“In Max’s final days, he spent his time helping others stay alive, as he had developed a passion for protecting and saving the lives of others,” Kathleen said. “So much so that he was willing to risk his own life and made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Area residents and friends of the family packed the football field at Edison High School, Soviak’s alma mater, for his memorial service. The stadium was set up with 635 seats on the field — one less than the population of Soviak’s nearby hometown, Berlin Heights, Ohio, at the time of his death. An internment closed to the media followed the funeral services.
“For everyone who wants to honor Maxton’s memory, this is what I have to offer you: Go live,” Kathleen said. “Fill the book of your life with stories. Push yourself to do something that scares you. Go bigger, go harder and most importantly of all, love fiercely.”
Several of Soviak’s siblings also shared memories they had with their brother, including how Soviak texted the family two days before he died to remind them to be appreciative to have one another.
“I have so many memories with Max, but I should have so many more,” Soviak’s sister Marilyn said. “Max was just so full of life. He loved trying new things and seeing the world and making a difference.”
“The last thing he said to me was ‘Nothing too crazy going on,’ which is typical Max,” Marilyn said. “He always thought he was invincible, and I guess we kind of did, too. He died doing what he was passionate about, surrounded by his brothers, and that brings me some peace.”
According to Soviak’s father, Kip, his son was loyal, compassionate and “family-driven.” Soviak even chose the number 27 for his football jersey because it was the opposite of his father’s number: 72. Additionally, the date 2/7 was Soviak’s parent’s wedding anniversary and one of his sister’s birthdays, “so it had a lot of meaning,” Kip said.
His dad also shared that he and Soviak’s mother, Rachel, spoke with their son’s commanding officer and learned that Soviak had been providing assistance to a mother and child at the time of the ISIS-K attack.
“It was while he was providing aid that the bomber slipped up into the chaos and struck,” Kip said. “Our son did not suffer.”
Soviak’s remains were returned to Ohio on Sept. 8. The Navy also announced last week he was posthumously advanced to the rank of hospital corpsman 3rd class, and was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Fleet Marine Force Corpsman warfare badge.
“Petty Officer Soviak gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to this country,” Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro said in a statement. “While this promotion and the Fleet Marine Force Corpsman warfare badge are awarded posthumously, I have no doubt his dedication to this nation, his displayed skill as a Hospital Corpsman, and devotion to the mission at hand warrant this recognition.”