A bill awarding Congressional Gold Medals to the 13 service members who were killed during the Aug. 26 suicide bombing at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul was passed by Congress on Thursday.
The bipartisan bill — introduced in September by Senators Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Steve Danes, R-Mont. — calls for the medals to be posthumously awarded to the fallen service members and then donated to the Smithsonian Institution for display.
According to the official page for Congressional medals, Congress has been commissioning gold medals since the Revolutionary War as “its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions by individuals or institutions.” Among those who have been awarded the medal are President George Washington, the Wright brothers and the members of Gen. James Doolittle’s “Tokyo Raiders” in World War II.
The 13 service members to be honored are Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin Hoover, 31; Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23; Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25; Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22; Cpl. Daegan Page, 23; Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, 22; Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20; Lance Cpl. David Espinoza, 20; Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, 20; Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola, 20; Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20; Navy Hospitalman Maxton Soviak, 22; and Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23.
ISIS-Khorasan has since claimed responsibility for the attack.
“Thirteen brave men and women gave the last full measure to protect Americans & our Afghan allies at a critical moment in our nation’s history—they are American heroes. As the U.S. concludes 20-years of combat in Afghanistan, I believe it’s fitting that Congress commemorates their sacrifice in this moment with the Congressional Gold Medal,” Daines said in a statement.
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The bill was passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate, and is now on President Joe Biden’s desk waiting to be signed.
Rep. Lisa McClain, R-Mich., introduced the bipartisan legislation to honor the fallen troops on Aug. 31, just hours after the last American military troops left Afghanistan.
“The American service members went above and beyond the call of duty to protect citizens of the United States and our allies to ensure they are brought to safety in an extremely dangerous situation as the Taliban regained control over Afghanistan,” the bill reads. “The American service members exemplified extreme bravery and valor against armed enemy combatants [and] … members dedicated their lives and their heroism deserves great honor.”
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The Congressional Gold Medal dates back to American Revolution and serves as Congress’ “highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions,” according to a House description of the award. It has been awarded 173 times to individuals or groups of people.
“The service and sacrifice of these 13 brave men and women will never be forgotten,” McClain said in a statement on Thursday. “I’m proud this important legislation to award these heroes with Congress’ top honor is one step closer to becoming law.”
Nancy Pelosi in a statement said, Today, as House Speaker, I was proud to sign HR 5142, to posthumously award a Congressional Gold Medal to the 13 Servicemembers who died in Afghanistan on August 26, 2021 during the evacuation of citizens of the United States & Afghan allies at Hamid Karzai International Airport.
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The group of deceased service members includes 11 Marines, one Army soldier and one member of the Navy.