As a member of a female engagement team with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Sgt. Nicole Gee was providing a vital skill set during the United States’ chaotic final withdrawal from Afghanistan. She was there to communicate with and facilitate support for Afghan women and children.
Before an ISIS-K suicide bomber claimed the lives of 13 American service members, including Gee, the Roseville, California, native was immortalized in photos at Hamid Karzai International Airport as a symbol of what is best in the American spirit.
“I love my job,” Gee wrote Aug. 20 in an Instagram post showing her consoling an infant in Kabul. Other photographs captured Gee, who was meritoriously promoted to sergeant just weeks ago, escorting refugees to awaiting C-17s.
Gee, a maintenance technician by specialty, was helping search female refugees at the time of the attack, according to several Instagram posts.
“Nicole was out in front with all of us [infantry Marines] unwavering in the face of the unknown,” Rowdy Woods, an infantry Marine who served with Gee at HKIA wrote on Facebook. “She always had a positive attitude and strived to put a smile on everyone’s face. Just two days before the blast we were cutting it up when she was helping us boys out at the East gate. She was there to search the women and children for us but that night she was helping us prepare for an attack that we knew would eventually come. Nicole loved what she was doing out here and she knew the risks. She did it anyway because she is, and forever will be, one badass Marine.”
Just weeks after celebrating her fifth wedding anniversary, the 23-year-old sergeant wrote to her sister, telling her how excited she was about all she was accomplishing in Afghanistan.
“She absolutely loved the work she was doing in Afghanistan,” Gee’s sister, Misty Fuoco, wrote on the GoFundMe page she set up. “She was such a bright light to everyone she touched. Always focusing on positivity and motivating others to do their best.”
Marine Sgt. Mallory Harrison paid tribute to her fallen friend in a Facebook post.
“My very best friend, my person, my sister forever,” Harrison wrote. “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.”
Gee graduated from Oakmont High School in 2016. In October 2017, she shipped off to boot camp at Parris Island, where she became known for encouraging those around her to accomplish their mission. When one of her platoon mates, Jenni LaTorra, was injured and doubting if she could continue on, Gee picked her up.
“It was late at night, I was crying and frustrated, trying to fight and figure out if I could make it. She pulled me in, hugged me, and told me not to give up. That I could do it. That I could make it. […] She always put others before herself,” LaTorra told Coffee or Die Magazine.
LaTorra said Gee made an impression on those around her throughout her career.
“She was always making everyone laugh. She was a badass from the start too. Everyone knew she was going to be a damn good Marine. Just, no one thought she’d eventually sacrifice her life for it,” LaTorra said.
Gee is survived by her husband, Jarod Gee, who is also a Marine. Gee’s sister wrote on GoFundMe, “Her love for her husband and my brother in law, Jarod Gee, is unmatched. They had a bond like nothing I’ve ever seen and I’m so devastated that he has lost the love of his life. She was everything to Jarod, the bright sun to his life. They are both Marines and have dedicated themselves to serving this country.”
At the time of publication, the GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $91,000 of its $100,000 goal.
Gee’s cousin wrote on Instagram that she is heartbroken but “beyond proud” that Gee died for what she believed in — “protecting and serving this country and the innocent civilians of Afghanistan.”
“I’m so grateful to have grown up with such a wonderful, caring human being,” she wrote. I’m going to miss her for the rest of my life.”
Similar sentiments emerged in myriad tributes posted by friends and family online.
“I find peace knowing that she left this world doing what she loved,” Harrison, her friend and fellow sergeant, wrote on Facebook. “She was a Marine’s Marine. She cared about people. She loved fiercely. She was a light in this dark world.”
The 13 American service members killed in the Aug. 26 bombing were:
Lance Cpl. David Lee Espinoza, USMC | Laredo, TX
Sgt. Nicole Gee, USMC | Roseville, CA
Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, USMC | Salt Lake City, UT
Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, US Army | Knoxville, TN
Cpl. Hunter Lopez, USMC | Indio, CA
Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, USMC | Bondurant, WY
Cpl. Dylan Merola, USMC | Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, USMC | Norco, CA
Cpl. Daegan William-Tyeler Page, USMC | Omaha, NE
Sgt. Johanny Rosario, USMC | Lawrence, MA
Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, USMC | Logansport, IN
Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, USMC | Wentzville, MO
Navy Corpsman Maxton Soviak, US Navy | Berlin Heights, OH