29 Purple Hearts approved for troops injured in Iran missile strike

29 Purple Hearts approved for troops injured in Iran missile strike
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Twenty-nine U.S. soldiers have been approved for Purple Hearts after suffering traumatic brain injuries (TBI) from Iran’s January missile strike on an Iraqi military base, with the first six awarded Sunday and Monday, U.S. Central Command (Centcom) said Monday.

“The first six Purple Hearts approved for injuries sustained during a Jan. 8, 2020, Iranian ballistic missile attack on Al Asad Air Base in Iraq were awarded to U.S. Army soldiers in Iraq and Kuwait on May 3 and 4, respectively,” Centcom spokesman Cmdr. Zachary Harrell said in a statement.

The remaining 23 awards are expected to be presented this week, Harrell added.

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On Jan. 8, Iran launched a ballistic missile strike on Iraq’s al Asad Air Base in retaliation for the U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani while he was at the Baghdad airport earlier that month.

U.S. officials initially said Iran’s attack caused no injuries, but later revealed dozens of troops were suffering from TBI. Officials attributed the delay in reporting the injuries to the fact that symptoms from TBI can sometimes take time to present themselves.

Eventually, 110 U.S. service members were diagnosed with TBI.

When brain injuries from the attack were first revealed, President TrumpDonald John Trump Trump responds to calls to tear down monuments with creation of 'National Garden' of statues Trump: Children are taught in school to 'hate their own country' Trump accuses those tearing down statues of wanting to 'overthrow the American Revolution' MORE elicited criticism by downplaying their severity. Trump said in January that he “heard that they had headaches and a couple of other things,” calling the injuries “not very serious.”

Lt. Gen. Pat White, commander of the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition, approved the Purple Hearts after a review, Harrell said Monday.

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A total of 80 recommendations for Purple Hearts for those injured in the attack were received by Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), and each was evaluated individually by a review board, Harrell said. The board gave its recommendations on Army soldiers to White.

There were also two airmen submitted for review who White recommended against approving, according to the statement. White gave that recommendation to Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella, commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, who has final approval over awards for the airmen, the statement added.

“It is important to note that a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) diagnosis does not automatically qualify a service member for Purple Heart eligibility or awarding,” Harrel said, “and the CJTF-OIR process was designed to be a fair and impartial proceeding that evaluated each case in accordance with applicable regulations.”