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Congressional Gold Medal Eyed for Kabul Attack Heroes

September 7, 2021 by Dan McCue
President Joe Biden bows his head as first lady Jill Biden, right, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, watch during a casualty return at Dover Air Force Base, Del., Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, for the 13 service members killed in the suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug. 26. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON — Just days after their remains were returned home to their families for burial, the 13 U.S. service members killed during a deadly attack at the Kabul airport last month appear likely to receive Congress’s highest honor.

Reps. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., and Lisa McClain, R-Mich., are cosponsoring a bill that would posthumously award them the Congressional Gold Medal.

The bipartisan legislation would award the medal to Staff Sgt. Darin Taylor Hoover, Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, Sgt. Nicole Gee, Cpl. Hunter Lopez, Cpl. Daegan Page, Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, Cpl. David Lee Espinoza, Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola, Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, Hospitalman Maxton Soviak, and Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss.

“In the final days of the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan, 13 servicemembers put their lives on the line — and paid the ultimate sacrifice — as they helped American citizens and our Afghan allies evacuate the country,” Spanberger said. 

“By awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to these courageous and selfless Americans, we can honor their sacrifice, stand with their loved ones, and ensure that the memory of the fallen shall always live on,” she said.

The 11 Marines, one soldier and one sailor died Aug. 26, when a suicide bomber detonated explosives at a Kabul airport gate where U.S. troops were searching evacuees rushing to depart the country.

 At least 18 other troops were wounded in the bombing that killed at least 170 Afghan civilians. 

The attack was the single deadliest enemy strike against U.S. forces in Afghanistan since August 2011, when militants shot down a Chinook helicopter, killing 30 U.S. troops on board.

“I’m proud to lead my colleagues on both sides of the aisle on this bipartisan bill,” McClain said. “I’m inspired by the readiness of my colleagues in Congress to honor these 13 brave men and women who were taken from their loved ones far too soon.” 

“Their sacrifice for their country and its allies will never be forgotten and I hope to be able to pay tribute to them with this medal,” she said.

The bipartisan legislation is cosponsored by more than 220 Democrats and Republicans. Click here to read the full bill text.

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