Some U.S. soldiers who were injured in the Iran missile strike on the Al Asad Air Base in Iraq on January 8 last year may finally receive a Purple Heart award.
According to The Washington Post at least 33 troops are now being reconsidered for a Purple Heart medal. At least 30 other troops already received the award for their injuries in the attack, but dozens were overlooked.
In January 2020, Iran leveled the Al Asad Air Base with 11 warheads, each weighing 1,600 pounds after the U.S. killed top Iranian General Quasem Soleimani.
No one was killed during the attack but several soldiers who were left behind to defend the base suffered traumatic brain injuries which then-President Donald Trump dismissed as mere “headaches,” adding the situation was “not very serious.” A total of 110 survivors have been diagnosed with TBIs.
“The person I was prior to a traumatic brain injury, he’s gone,” Platoon Sergeant Daine Kvasager said. “There’s parts that remain. The pieces are all still there, just — yeah, he’s not coming back.”
According to CBS News, current and former soldiers from Taskforce Scarecrow —the skeleton crew left behind to defend the base—question whether politics played a role in the Army’s failure to award the Purple Heart to the soldiers.
Captain Geoffrey Hansen, who helped lead the taskforce said the soldiers met the Army’s requirement for the award. However, when their commander, Colonel Gregory Fix submitted 56 soldiers diagnosed with TBIs for the Purple Heart, only 23 were recognized with the award.
“The messaging I was getting was just the political situation wasn’t going to support more approvals,” Hansen said.
Colonel Fix said in a letter on October 6 that he was “directed not to inquire about the remaining awards or resubmit those awards.”
Soldiers also told CBS they were pressured to downplay the growing injuries to avoid a further escalation with Iran and avoid undercutting former President Trump.
[Featured image : Emilienne Malfatto for The Washington Post]