U.S. Marine Sgt. Nicole Gee loved her job

One of the last photos that Marine Sgt. Nicole Gee shared with her family from Afghanistan shows her in dusty body armor with a rifle, her long blond hair pulled back, her hands in tactical gloves. Amid the chaos of Kabul, those hands are carefully cradling a baby.

It was a moment captured on the front lines of the airport, where Marines worked feverishly to shepherd tens of thousands of evacuees through chaotic and dangerous razor wire gates. It showed how, even in the tumult, many took time to comfort the families who made it through.

In a short message posted with the photo, the sergeant said, “I love my job”

Several of her friends told The Daily Beast they were devastated but not surprised to learn Gee died trying to help people, doing the job she loved most.

“She was a badass,” Lance Cpl. Joyner Seaman, who trained with Gee in 2018 at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, told The Daily Beast. “She would outrun and outperform most male Marines in the physical categories during our training.”

“She was truly a badass individual—and more importantly, she was the nicest person. She was a Marine’s Marine.”

He added that one of Gee’s best qualities was that “she could not avoid helping others.”

The Department of Defense on Saturday identified Gee as one of the 13 U.S. troops who died while helping to evacuate non-combatant Afghans and Americans as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. At least 170 people were killed in the blast, and scores more were injured.

“This withdrawal was conducted improperly,” Seaman said, adding that while he politically leans conservative, he would have the same opinions about the operation no matter who was in office. “There were veteran military leaders who should have known better.”

“The biggest mistake was pulling out military assets first [before all evacuees and troops were removed]. It was a logistical and tactical planning error,” he said.

Rachel Ortiz, another friend, told The Daily Beast that Gee was “an amazing human being and anyone who met her was one lucky person. She had the ability to make everyone in the room smile. She will be missed by everyone.”

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