Remembering fallen soldier Sgt. Nicole Gee

Oakmont High School alum and Roseville native among 13 U.S troops killed in fateful attack on Kabul airport

Sgt.+Nicole+Gee+pictured+on+her+Instagram+cradling+a+baby+in+Kabul%2C+Afghanistan+on+Aug.+20.

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Sgt. Nicole Gee pictured on her Instagram cradling a baby in Kabul, Afghanistan on Aug. 20.

Valentina Moreno, Editor-in-chief

On Thursday, Aug. 26 at 6:30 a.m., Oakmont High School alum USMC Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23, was killed in a suicide bombing at Hamid Karzai airport along with 12 other U.S. troops and 60 Afghan civilians.

Amidst the resurgence of Taliban rule in war-torn Afghanistan and the imminent withdrawal of the United States from the 20-year war, the attack on the Kabul airport disconcerted the country, while the news of Sgt. Nicole Gee’s death shattered the harmony of the Roseville community. It seemed a cruel twist of fate that approaching the coda of the U.S. involvement in the war, calamity struck.

Two days prior, on Tuesday, Aug. 24, Nicole had agreed to an interview with Norse Notes about her deployment in Kabul. I had seen her Instagram pictures that are now flooding the media- assisting evacuees onto military planes, cradling children- and was interested in finding out about her experience in such a critical and enduring political conflict. 

I communicated with her through text about conducting the interview and her response to me, so quintessentially Nicole, exuded enthusiasm and warmth. She invited me to send my questions virtually, and she would respond when she came home.

I drafted my questions, hoping to pick her brain on the day-to-day responsibilities of U.S troops at the Kabul airport, and sent them on Thursday, Aug 26 at 2:30 pm. They didn’t deliver. 

On Friday, news surfaced that she had passed Thursday morning. I never got to see her responses to my questions, and it’s under devastating circumstances that this article survives her. 

Nicole’s undeniable impact on the Roseville community has left teachers, parents, students, and community members distraught in her wake. Most wistfully reminisce about her exuberant love of people and life.

“She was a good student, and she got good grades, but that wasn’t the most important thing to her,” Kelly Kerns, Nicole’s AP Language and Composition teacher said. “She enjoyed life and enjoyed her friends, and she enjoyed dancing.”

Nicole’s compassion for other people during her service parallels that degree of care for her friends at Oakmont.

“I remember she would come into class and get ready, and a friend would stand outside and gesture to her, and her face would just light up and she’d run,” Kerns recalled. “They’d laugh, or if the person was upset she’d hug them.”

She imprinted a legacy of human compassion and connection on the people that knew her and those that wished they could have.

“I would hope that [her legacy] is how important human connections are,” Kerns said. “Your legacy not how smart you are, it is ‘did you connect with people, did you love people, and did people love you’, and I think that’s something you see in that picture of her: the connection, one human to another, it’s the same I saw in her with her friends.”

The protocols undertaken by the district after Sgt. Gee’s death are by no means expected or normal. Oakmont High School’s former principal during Nicole’s attendance, now Executive Director of Human Resources, Robert Hasty outlined how the district handled her death.

“Whenever a student passes, it’s a difficult thing for everybody to deal with; It’s not natural,” Hasty said. “I looked at the kids on this campus as my kids to some extent, when I was [at Oakmont] as principal, and it’s really hard to see people you have relationships with pass.”

“From a district standpoint it’s really difficult, but our goal is to try to reach out to families.” Hasty continued. “I had a really great conversation with Nicole’s dad, and we try to make sure that people know how sorry we are about the loss … we want our community to know that we stand beside you.”

Not only was the procedural aspect of Nicole’s death difficult and uncertain, but the massive media reaction to her passing was unprecedented in Oakmont history.

“The first Oakmont student killed in action was in my senior English class, and I can tell you the response at the time was really different,” Kerns said. “People did not make a big deal, there wasn’t a memorial, but that was back in 2007, so the social media influence has heightened people’s responses to it.”

Particularly, the community’s reaction has been exacerbated by a viral Instagram picture of Nicole cooing a baby in Kabul. The picture has been featured on major American newspapers and community members’ social media posts, inciting widespread mourning of the young woman who so fervently cared for others.

Nicole’s former Child Development teacher, Wendy Cox, relays a similar sentiment about Nicole’s compassion for others, especially young children, providing that it originated before the picture of her holding a baby in Kabul when Nicole worked at Oakmont’s Tiny Vikes Preschool.

“Her care for children started long before that picture and it just grew as she became older and more focused on her career, but she always had that compassion for people,” Cox said. “When I saw that picture of her holding a baby, I’m like ‘yeah that’s her’.”

A childhood friend of Nicole’s, Skylar Mertz, recalled that even during their time together at Sargeant Elementary School, Nicole sought this tender human connection. 

“We were young kids playing around at recess and on field trips, and she was always really nice to me and made me laugh,” Mertz said. “Some of my favorite memories of her are just playing on the playground or talking to each other in class.”

Nicole’s dedication infused every one of her passions, from dance to friends and family, and eventually, protecting her country.

“She loved her little brother, Thor, and made him take Dance, which he fell in love with too,” Kami Bettencourt, Nicole’s former dance teacher at Oakmont, said. “I also remember her coming to see teachers before she went into the service; she was so proud to serve her country.”

The overwhelming reaction from the community in regards to Nicole’s death reflects her permanent contribution to Roseville and the nation at large. She will live in people’s memories perennially in joy and heroism.

“Marine Sergeant Nicole Gee is the definition of an American hero,” Rep. Tom McClintock, 4th district, said. “We will mourn her loss, and we must never forget her service and her sacrifice.”