Thursday’s deadly suicide bombings in Kabul reportedly marked the fourth-deadliest day of attacks in terms of American casualties during the 20 years Americans fought in Afghanistan.
As noted by KDVR-TV, 13 service members were killed and 15 wounded in Thursday’s explosions. Estimates of civilian casualties are fluid. The New York Times reported a death toll of 170 civilians, while CNN has the death toll pegged at 90. An estimated 150 civilians were initially reported as wounded by the blasts, but it is not clear how many of those people may have subsequently died.
On Aug. 6, 2011, the U.S. lost at least 30 service members when a helicopter was shot down. On June 28, 2005, 19 Americans died when another U.S. helicopter was shot down. That was roughly two months after at least 14 Americans died on April 6 of that year when a helicopter crashed.
The Daily Caller News Foundation had reported Thursday was the third deadliest day in the Afghanistan war. However, the DCNF did not include the April 6 date in its report.
In its summary of the attack, The New York Times, citing U.S. officials as its source, said that the suicide bomber waited until just before he would be searched by U.S. service members to detonate the vest he was wearing.
#RIP U.S. Marine Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23 years old
— Mike Saccone (@mikesacconetv) August 28, 2021
The man wore a vest estimated to have been 25 pounds, much larger than the normal size of what suicide bombers wear, according to the Times. The bomb was packed with metal pieces that acted as shrapnel to mow down anyone nearby.
“This is close-up war — the breath of the person you are searching is upon you,” said Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the head of United States Central Command.
Much of the incident remains under investigation to assemble a full picture of events.
The explosion triggered a round of gunfire, unnamed Defense Department officials told the Times, noting that some casualties may have been killed or wounded by that gunfire.
“The Marines who died were the ones who were helping our team,” said Cori Shepherd, a filmmaker who once helped Afghan girls receive schooling in the U.S. “These men were quite literally going into the masses and pulling our women to safety, while coordinating with our guy to find them. The men who worked Abbey Gate were brave beyond measure.”
Heartbroken at the news of the death of U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Johanny Rosario Pichardo, a 25-year-old Lawrence native, who was killed in the Kabul airport bombing. She paid the ultimate sacrifice, to save the lives of Afgans and their families.https://t.co/juwcAkjDNk
— Jamie Eldridge (@JamieEldridgeMA) August 28, 2021
“She believed in what she was doing, she loved being a Marine,” Gee’s brother-in-law, Gabriel Fuoco, said. “She wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.”
Marine First Lt. John Coppola said Rosario’s “service was not only crucial to evacuating thousands of women and children, but epitomizes what it means to be a Marine: putting herself in danger for the protection of American values so that others might enjoy them.”
In a lengthy Facebook post, fellow service member Mallory Harrison paid tribute to Gee.
“Her car is parked in our lot. It’s so mundane. Simple. But it’s there. My very best friend, my person, my sister forever. My other half. We were boots together, Corporals together, & then Sergeants together. Roommates for over 3 years now, from the barracks at MOS school to our house here. We’ve been attached at the hip from the beginning,” she wrote.
“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. 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.”
“I love my job.”
In one of her last social media posts, Marine Nicole Gee posted the photo below, with the caption “I love my job.”
She died only days later.
And I haven’t felt this proud and this gutted in a long time. pic.twitter.com/ZjYOD2v7cb
— Maggie Seymour (@maggie_mae_mour) August 28, 2021
After talking about the humdrum nature of Marine assignments in peacetime, Harrison wrote, “Then bad people do bad things, and all of a sudden, the peaceful float you were on turns into you going to Afghanistan & for some, never coming back. It turns into your friends never coming home.”
“Her car is still there, & she’s gone forever,” she wrote, before recalling an image she took of Gee flanked by crosses.
“I never would’ve thought her name would be on a cross like those one day. There’s no way to adequately prepare for that feeling. No PowerPoint training, no class from the chaps, nothing. Nothing can prepare you,” she wrote.
“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. Til Valhalla, Sergeant Nicole Gee. I can’t wait to see you & your Momma up there. I love you forever & ever.”
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