HEROES OF KABUL: Sgt. Nicole Gee worked relentlessly to evacuate as many Afghan women and children as possible
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LINCOLN, Calif. – This article is part of a Fox News Digital series examining the consequences of the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan one year ago this week.
Sgt. Nicole Gee volunteered to go to the Hamid Karzai International Airport to help with the evacuation of Afghanistan. She worked tirelessly, forgoing sleep and rest to help as many Afghan women and children escape as she could.
"She was excited to be able to use all that training that they do month after month" and "being able to go there and helping evacuate all these people," Gee's aunt, Cheryl Juels, told Fox News.
And when female U.S. service members were needed to search Afghan women being evacuated, Gee "popped right up, hand up," Juels said. She "came out there and greeted every single woman and child that she saw with a big smile."
Sgt. Nicole Gee holds a baby in Afghanistan in August 2021, soon before she was killed in the suicide bomb attack on the Kabul airport. (Courtesy: Misty Fuoco)
"She had worked 18 hours that day," Juels added. "She was volunteering eight hours every night, instead of sleeping, resting or eating. I think for her, she just knew the longer she was out there, the more people were going to get through, and that's why she stayed out there."
"She was volunteering when she died," Jules said.
Gee, 23, was one of the 13 U.S service members killed by a suicide bomber who detonated an explosive at the Kabul airport on Aug. 26, 2021. At least 170 Afghan civilians were also killed.
Gee escorts evacuees onto a plane at Hamid Karzai International Airport on Aug. 22, 2021. (Courtesy: Nicole Gee family)
'My sister was my person'
Gee's family described the Marine as the "golden child."
"She was always extremely self-motivated," Gee's sister Misty Fuoco told Fox News. "Saved all her money ever since she was born."
"She would go to the grocery store and get groceries for her neighbors," Fuoco continued.
Gee's cousin Steffani Moody agreed, calling her "an overachiever."
Juels said Gee "was very driven. She never missed a single day of school."
Gee poses for the camera while in her Marine gear. (Courtesy: Misty Fuoco)
Eventually, Gee's husband, Jarod Gee, decided to join the Marines. She spent months weighing out the pros and cons before joining as well.
"She likes a challenge," Fuoco said. "She was very determined to go."
Juels said: "With the Marines, I think she found a place that she could be strong and brave and help people and be selfless. And all the things that they stand for was all things that who she was already."
"And so it just kind of gave her an outlet to be all those things all at once," Juels continued.
Gee rides a camel in Saudi Arabia. (Courtesy: Nicole Gee family)
Gee ultimately became a maintenance technician with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Her job involved fixing radios and working on Humvees – and kept her away from the front lines.
So when Gee told her sister that she was being deployed at her request, Fuoco was nervous.
"She's an electrician," Fuoco told Fox News. "She is not in a deployable unit."
Fuoco said she was in denial when she learned about the ISIS-K terrorist attack at the Kabul airport.
But Gee's husband came over the next morning and delivered the news.
"He held me in a big bear hug for at least two minutes," Fuoco said. "It felt like a lifetime."
"I just stood completely still and stared at my kitchen cabinets," Fuoco continued. "I had a thousand thoughts racing through my head, starting with: there is no way, this can't be true."
Fuoco reflected on her relationship with Gee.
Gee holds a dog alongside husband and fellow Marine, Jarod Gee. (Courtesy: Nicole Gee family)
"My sister was my person. I told her everything," she told Fox News. "There was no secret about me that she didn't know and vice versa."
"And I wouldn't have that anymore," Fuoco added.
"If I had the opportunity to see her again, it would probably be in silence while I just hugged her," Fuoco said, holding back tears.
Lisa Bennatan is an associate producer/writer for Fox News Digital Originals. Follow her on Twitter @LisaBennatan and Instagram @Lisa_Bennatan