Tuesday, August 16

The death of the marine who cradled babies in Kabul


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Dozens of images remain for the history of the last two weeks in Kabul: helicopters taking off loaded with diplomats from the roof of the US Embassy in the Afghan capital, a reminder of Saigon in 1975; the Taliban in the presidential palace; the young Afghans clinging to the side of a US C-17 plane about to take off, and the bodies of two of them falling from a void once in the air; the crowd at the gates of the airport looking for a ticket for their salvation; or the mass of bodies in a ditch in front of the airfield after the terrorist massacre last Thursday.

Nicole Gee, U.S. Army Marine Corps Sergeant,

is in two iconic images. In one of them, she cradles an Afghan baby, with light brown hair and terrified eyes despite his young age. He was one of those kids that the military rescued from the hands of their relatives, from an airport wall, in the chaos outside, between shootings by the Taliban to control the crowd that tried to enter the airfield. The other historical image of Gee is that of the thirteen coffins covered with the American flag, lined up inside a US military transport plane. One of them was Nicole’s.

His body was in one, his name is among the thirteen US soldiers who died in the suicide attack and that the Pentagon unveiled yesterday. He was 23 years old. “I love my job,” Gee commented in one of the photos with the baby, which he shared on his social networks. So did the US Army Central Command, which sought to offer a more positive image than the chaotic rout and tragedy of Kabul.

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Gee was a maintenance technician with the 24th Marine Corps Expeditionary Unit. He had recently been promoted to sergeant, having passed the physical tests with excellence.

Protect women

From Kabul he shared other images of his work. In one of them, she was assisting two Afghan girls on their way to a military plane, one of their purses in her hand. Gee was assigned functions of aid and escort of Afghan women and girls – one of the groups that will feel the most impact under Taliban power – during his evacuation. In the last one he shared, on August 22, he appeared next to a long line of people before entering the transport ship. Four days later, the explosion of a terrorist wearing a vest full of explosives must have surprised him while checking people at the airport.

“She was a model marine,” said the captain. Karen Holliday. “A Marine of the Marines.” “She gave her last breath doing what she liked at the Kabul airport: helping people,” said a friend, Mallory Harrison, in a message shared on Facebook.

Gee lost his life on the most tragic day for the United States Armed Forces in Afghanistan since 2011. Eleven of those killed were from the Marine Corps, while one was from the Navy and another from the Army. Among them was Rylee McCollum, who was expecting her first child at just 20 years old. “I’ve lost my best friend,” his wife, Jiennah Crayton, said in a Facebook post. And he would have been the best father. They both hoped to meet in California before delivery.

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He is also among the deceased Corporal Hunter López, 22, who sought to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a sheriff of his county after his return from Afghanistan, which his relatives already saw very close. Or Maxton Soviak, also 22 years old, who worked as a Navy medic and who in his last message on social networks took a photo with two Marines and with combat equipment. “It’s kill or be killed,” he wrote. “And I certainly try to be on the side of killing.”

The attack killed at least 170 Afghans and injured hundreds. In the attack perpetrated by the Afghan branch of Daesh (Islamic State), three British soldiers were also killed. Among the Afghan deaths are men, women and children. Many of them will remain anonymous.

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