Marine who cradled baby at Kabul airport among Americans killed in bombing

Marine who cradled baby at Kabul airport among Americans killed in bombing


Los Angeles: Marine Sgt Nicole Gee celebrated the joy of service just days before she was one of 13 US service members killed in Friday’s suicide bombing attack near Kabul airport.

Tributes have poured in for the 11 Marines, one Navy sailor and one Army soldier who were killed in the attack blamed on IS-K, Afghanistan’s offshoot of the Islamic State group. The US said it was the most lethal day for American forces in Afghanistan since 2011.

More than 160 Afghans were killed and at least 18 other US troops were wounded in the bombing.

A week ago, Gee, 23, posted a photo on Instagram that showed her holding a baby at that airport. She added a simple, profound comment: “I love my job.” The same photo was posted by the Department of Defence on August 21.

In this August 20, 2021, image, Sgt Nicole Gee calms an infant during the evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. Gee was later killed in a bombing outside the airport.Credit:Sgt Isaiah Campbell/US Marine Corps via AP

Gee, from Sacramento, California, served as a maintenance technician with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. On her Instagram page, she described herself as a “positive mental attitude advocate”. The locations listed on her page include California, North Carolina and “somewhere overseas”.

Another photo on Gee’s Instagram page shows her earlier in the week, on duty with her rifle next to a line of people waiting to board a transport plane. She described her assignment as “escorting evacuees onto the bird.”

Other recent Instagram photos show Gee with friends in Spain, where they shared a toast, and Greece. Other pictures show the Marine riding a camel in Saudi Arabia and receiving her promotion to sergeant.

“Never would have imagined having my Sergeant promotion meritoriously in Kuwait,” she wrote of the promotion in a post shared three weeks ago.

A Facebook post by the city of Roseville, California, which calls Gee “a hometown hero,” says she graduated in 2016 from the city’s Oakmont High School and enlisted in the Marines a year later. It says her husband, Jarod Gee, also is an Oakmont graduate and a Marine.

Gee was remembered by Sgt Mallory Harrison, a fellow Marine who roomed with her for more than three years, in a Facebook post accompanied by more than a dozen photos.

“Her car is parked in our lot. It’s so mundane. Simple. But it’s there,” she began the post. “My very best friend, my person, my sister forever. My other half. We were boots together, Corporals together, & then Sergeants together. Roommates for over 3 years now, from the barracks at MOS school to our house here. We’ve been attached at the hip from the beginning.

“I can’t quite describe the feeling I get when I force myself to come back to reality & think about how I’m never going to see her again. How her last breath was taken doing what she loved — helping people — at HKIA in Afghanistan. Then there was an explosion. And just like that, she’s gone.”

She said the war stories told by older Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are “not so distant anymore”.

Harrison concluded sadly: “My best friend. 23 years old. Gone. I find peace knowing that she left this world doing what she loved. She was a Marine’s Marine. She cared about people. She loved fiercely. She was a light in this dark world. She was my person. … Til Valhalla, Sergeant Nicole Gee. I can’t wait to see you & your Momma up there. I love you forever & ever.”

The Americans killed in the attack were: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, 20, Jackson, Wyoming; Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20, of Wentzville, Missouri; Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas; Navy Hospital Corpsman Max Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio; Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, California; Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California; Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, 31, of Utah; Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan William-Tyeler Page, 23, of Omaha; Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23, of Knoxville, Tennessee; Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosario, 25, Lawrence, Massachusetts; Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, 22, Logansport, Indiana; Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23, of Roseville, California; Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, California.

USA Today, with AP

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