Tragic photo of murdered US Marine
One of the last photos ever taken of US Marine Sergeant Nicole Gee before her death in the Kabul terror attack showed her “doing what she loved”.
One of the last photos ever taken of US Marine Sergeant Nicole Gee showed her cradling an Afghan child at the airport in Kabul.
She posted it on her Instagram account with a cheerful caption: “I love my job.”
Less than a week later, while doing that job, the 23-year-old was murdered.
Sgt Gee was among 13 members of the US military killed by the terror attack in Kabul on Thursday when a suicide bomber detonated explosives in a crowd of Afghan civilians outside the airport. The Americans were conducting security checks.
It was the deadliest attack on US forces since 2011, and the first lethal one in Afghanistan since February of last year.
Today the total death toll rose to 169.
Sgt Gee’s friends and colleagues have paid tribute to her, saying she died doing what she loved: helping others.
“My very best friend, my person, my sister forever. My other half,” said fellow Marine Sergeant Mallory Harrison, a longtime friend of Ms Gee who rose through the ranks of the military alongside her.
“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 and think about how I’m never going to see her again. How her last breath was taken doing what she loved, helping people.
“Then there was an explosion. And just like that, she’s gone.
“My best friend. Twenty-three 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.”
Another friend, Victoria Clemmons, wrote on Facebook that she was “filled with sadness, rage and confusion”.
“I messaged her, ‘Hey girl, are you OK?’ as soon as I found out about the bombings at the airport. Hoping and praying to get an answer. Knowing she was busy protecting innocent lives and figured she would get back to me another time. Searching the past few days, looking for updates of the fallen, praying she was OK and she really was just busy,” she said.
“Helping people is something she loved to do. Just the other day she posted a picture and said, ‘I love my job.’
“She was an idol. She was a bright, happy, loving soul and she was taken from us. From what she loves most and from the people who love her.
“It doesn’t feel real, but we all know you were too good for this earth. Rest in heaven.”
Sgt Gee’s neighbour Alex Andra called her “an incredible person inside and out”.
“She was intimidating to be around to me, because I could feel what a good person she was just by her energy,” Ms Andra said.
“Just a few days ago we spoke through Instagram, and even working in the conditions she was in, she was in the best of spirits.
“Humbled and honoured to have known you Nicole. Truly.”
Another of the fallen Americans, 20-year-old Lance Corporal Rylee McCollum, was expecting a baby in three weeks.
“He would have been the best dad,” his wife Jiennah wrote on Facebook.
“I lost my best friend, and nothing will ever make that hurt less.
“I wish he could see how much of an impact he made on this world. I’m so proud to call him my husband.”
Lance Corporal Kareem Nikoui, another 20-year-old, was also among the dead.
“No mother, no parent should ever have to hear that their child is gone,” his mother Shana said on Instagram, sharing the last photo her son sent her.
“I will never get to hug him again and my heart is ripped out of my chest.
“I’m never going to get to hug my son again, or see his smile or hear his laugh. He was only 20 years old. He’s never going to get married or have a family.”
She said he was her “hero”.
Lance Corporal David Espinoza last spoke to his mother Elizabeth on Wednesday, the day before the terror attack claimed his life.
She told The Washington Post her heart had “a David-sized hole nobody can fill”.
“It was his calling, and he died a hero,” she said.
His last words to her were: “I love you.”
Almost 200 other families, in Afghanistan and back in the United States, are enduring the same grief.
President Joe Biden vowed the US would “hunt down” the terrorists responsible for Thursday’s attack, and on Friday he approved a drone missile strike against the Islamic State affiliate ISIS-K in Nangahar.
“Initial indications are that we killed the target. We know of no civilian casualties,” US Central Command said in a statement on Friday night.
Today Pentagon press secretary John Kirby confirmed the strike had killed two members of the terrorist group, a “planner” and a “facilitator”. A third person was injured.
“The fact two of these individuals are no longer walking on the face of the earth, it is a good thing,” Admiral Kirby said.