Frontline Women Soldiers Nicole Gee, Johanny Rosario Died in Kabul Blast 

Days before her death, Sgt. Nicole Gee posted a photo on her Instagram page showing her cradling a baby in her arms at Kabul airport.

"I love my job," she captioned the image.

Gee, 23, and 25-year-old Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo were the only women among the 13 U.S. troops killed in a suicide bombing at Kabul airport on Thursday, which also claimed the lives of more than 160 Afghans.

Islamic State militants have claimed responsibility for the attack, which came amid a massive evacuation following the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan.

On Sunday the Defense Department officially identified the slain U.S. service members, prompting an outpouring of tributes.

Sgt. Rosario, of Lawrence, Massachusetts, served with the Naval Amphibious Force, Task Force 51/5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade and was commended by her unit in May for her work in a supply chief role usually given to someone of higher rank.

"Johanny will be brought back to the city of Lawrence as the hero she is," Lawrence Mayor Kendrys Vasquez said during a press conference on Saturday. She "gave her all to give refuge to those in need," he said.

"Her name will never be forgotten here in this city and throughout this nation—I guarantee that," Jaime Melendez, director of veterans services in Lawrence, added.

She was also mourned in the Dominican Republic, where she was born. "We join the just pain of his family and friends, also the entire Dominican community of Lawrence," Sonia Guzmán, the Dominican Republic's ambassador to the U.S., tweeted. "Peace to your soul!"

Esta joven dominicana de Lawrence, Massachusetts, Johanny Rosario, falleció ayer en el ataque terrorista en Afganistán. Nos unimos al justo dolor de sus familiares y amigos, también a toda la Comunidad Dominicana de Lawrence. Paz a su alma!

— Sonia Guzmán (@soniaguzmank) August 28, 2021

Gee, of Sacramento, California, was a maintenance technician with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

Her last post on Instagram showed her standing near a long line of people waiting to board a military plane at the airport in Kabul. "Escorting evacuees onto the bird," she wrote in a caption.

Brig. Gen. Forrest C. Poole III, commanding general of 2nd Marine Logistics Group, said his unit mourned "the immense loss of Sgt. Gee."

Her roommate, Sgt. Mallory Harrison, posted a tribute on Facebook, describing how hard Gee's death had hit her.

"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. "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."

She continued: "My best friend. 23 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. She was my person."

See posts, photos and more on Facebook.

The deaths of Gee and Rosario highlight the unique role female service members have played in America's longest war.

Women were barred from officially serving in combat jobs until recent years.

When the war in Afghanistan started in 2001, women Marines were not assigned to gate duty, retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel Kate Germano told The New York Times. However, decades of war in conservative Muslim countries forced the U.S. military to adapt.

Female soldiers tended to volunteer for teams that were focused on gathering intelligence from women and searching theming them while on patrol, jobs that couldn't be done by men in Afghanistan due to cultural and religious sensitivities.

Gee and Rosario were assigned to search incoming Afghan women and children, according to the Washington Post.

Rosario had volunteered with her unit's female engagement team and "was screening women and children at Abbey Gate when the attack took place," said 1st Lt. Jack Coppola, a Marine Corps spokesman.

The Marine Corps has been contacted for additional comment.

Sgt. Nicole Gee
In this Aug. 20, 2021, image provided by the U.S. Marine Corps, Sgt. Nicole Gee calms an infant during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Sgt. Isaiah Campbell/U.S. Marine Corps via AP

Correction 8/31 8.80 a.m. ET: This article has been corrected to fix typos.

Editor's Picks

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts