The U.S. Army has approved Purple Hearts for 39 soldiers who were injured in an Iranian attack that saw 16 ballistic missiles target Al Asad Airbase in Iraq.
“The Army’s Human Resources command approved 39 Purple Heart submissions it recently received for Soldiers wounded in the January missile attack on Al Assad airbase,” said Army spokesman Lt. Col. Gabriel J. Ramirez in a statement to the Army Times. “They continue to review an additional 11 nominations, which will be decided on the individual merits.”
The awards come a month after a CBS News report detailed Jan. 2020 attack, noting that the soldiers injured had so far been denied the Purple Heart and the medical benefits given as a result of it.
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The attack, which occurred as tensions with Iran escalated following the U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, resulted in traumatic brain injuries for most of the 39 soldiers set to receive the award.
Colonel Gregory Fix, who was in command of the soldiers injured that day, sent a letter to the Army command that handles awards urging it to “review and/or reconsider the Purple Heart award packages for all Soldiers injured at Al-Asad airbase on January 8, 2020 who have not received the Purple Heart as a result of this attack.”
Sgt. 1st Class Daine Kvasager will be one of the soldiers to receive the award, according to an email that was obtained by the Army Times. Kvasager detailed to CBS News how the injuries he suffered during the attack have changed his life.
“The person I was prior to a traumatic brain injury, he’s gone,” Kvasager said. “There’s parts that remain. The pieces are all still there, just — yeah, he’s not coming back.”
While none of the soldiers at the base we killed in the attack, many received life changing injuries similar to Kvasager’s.
Captain Geoffrey Hansen, who helped lead Taskforce Scarecrow, told CBS News that the injured soldiers met the criteria to receive the Purple Heart.
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“Throughout my whole military career, I was always told ‘we take care of soldiers above all else’,” Hansen said. “It shocks me that we have failed to do that in this situation.”
Receiving the awards will give the soldiers access to major benefits directly tied to Purple Hearts, including priority Veterans Affairs medical care, educational benefits, and disability consideration.