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4 Marines from California among Kabul bombing victims

August 28, 2021 GMT
This undated photo released by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department shows U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22. Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, of Indio, Calif., was killed on Aug. 26, in the bomb attacks in Kabul, Afghanistan. Cpl. Lopez, whose parents work at the Riverside County Sheriff's Department in Southern California, was a sheriff's Explorer for three years before joining the Marine Corps in September 2017, Sheriff Chad Bianco said. Bianco said Lopez planned to follow in his parents' footsteps and become a Riverside County Sheriff's Deputy after his deployment. (Riverside County Sheriff's Department via AP)
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This undated photo released by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department shows U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22. Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, of Indio, Calif., was killed on Aug. 26, in the bomb attacks in Kabul, Afghanistan. Cpl. Lopez, whose parents work at the Riverside County Sheriff's Department in Southern California, was a sheriff's Explorer for three years before joining the Marine Corps in September 2017, Sheriff Chad Bianco said. Bianco said Lopez planned to follow in his parents' footsteps and become a Riverside County Sheriff's Deputy after his deployment. (Riverside County Sheriff's Department via AP)
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This undated photo released by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department shows U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22. Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, of Indio, Calif., was killed on Aug. 26, in the bomb attacks in Kabul, Afghanistan. Cpl. Lopez, whose parents work at the Riverside County Sheriff's Department in Southern California, was a sheriff's Explorer for three years before joining the Marine Corps in September 2017, Sheriff Chad Bianco said. Bianco said Lopez planned to follow in his parents' footsteps and become a Riverside County Sheriff's Deputy after his deployment. (Riverside County Sheriff's Department via AP)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Just a week before she was killed in a suicide bombing with 12 other U.S. service members, Sgt. Nicole Gee was cradling a baby in her arms at the Kabul airport.

She posted the photo on Instagram and wrote, “I love my job.”

Gee, 23, of Sacramento, California, was one of four Californians killed in the bombing at the Kabul airport where people were being evacuated amid the Taliban takeover. The blast killed 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members, including 11 Marines.

Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga; Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio; and Lance Cpl. Kareem Mae’Lee Grant Nikoui, of Norco, were also killed.

Gee was a maintenance technician with 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

Sgt. Mallory Harrison, who lived with Gee for three years and called her a “sister forever” and very best friend, wrote a moving account about the magnitude of her loss.

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“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,” Harrison wrote on Facebook. “How her last breath was taken doing what she loved -- helping people. … Then there was an explosion. And just like that, she’s gone.”

Gee’s Instagram page shows another photo of her in fatigues, holding a rifle next to a line of people walking into the belly of a large transport plane. She wrote: “escorting evacuees onto the bird.”

The social media account that includes many selfies after working out at the gym lists her location as California, North Carolina and “somewhere overseas.”

Photos show her on a camel in Saudi Arabia, in a bikini on a Greek isle and holding a beer in Spain. One from earlier this month in Kuwait shows her beaming with her meritorious promotion to sergeant.

Harrison said her generation of Marines hears war stories from veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts but they seem very distant amid boring deployments until “the peaceful float you were on turns into … your friends never coming home.”

Gee’s car was still parked in a lot at Camp Lejeune and Harrison mused about all the Marines who had walked past it while she was overseas, unaware of who it belonged to.

“Some of them knew her. Some of them didn’t,” she said. “They all walked past it. The war stories, the losses, the flag-draped coffins, the KIA bracelets & the heartbreak. It’s not so distant anymore.”