The Army has approved 39 Purple Hearts for soldiers injured in the Al Asad missile attack. Background photo by Spc. Derek Mustard. Foreground screenshot via the US Army. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.
The US Army will award the Purple Heart to 39 soldiers who sustained traumatic brain injuries during an Iranian airstrike against US forces in Iraq in January 2020. The Army had initially declined the awards, saying the soldiers had not been wounded severely enough to be medically evacuated.
“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 air base,” Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Gabriel Ramirez told Coffee or Die Magazine. “They continue to review an additional 11 nominations, which will be decided on the individual merits.”
Last January, Iran launched the largest ballistic missile attack ever fired at US forces, with around 16 rockets aimed at Al Asad and Erbil military bases in Iraq. Around a dozen missiles struck the bases, but no American soldiers were killed.
There were 56 soldiers submitted for the Purple Heart, but the Army approved only 23, recognizing those who were medically evacuated immediately after the attack, CBS reported.
The other 33 soldiers, many of whom were later diagnosed with TBIs, were denied the award by the Army, despite having suffered injury and undergone treatment that seemed to make them eligible for Purple Hearts. The soldiers were also denied benefits that come with the award.
Following media attention, the Army reviewed the soldiers’ submissions and reversed its decision this week. The Army’s Human Resources command notified the 39 soldiers Wednesday, Dec. 8, that their Purple Hearts had officially been approved, CBS reported.
One of the Purple Hearts will be awarded posthumously to Jason Quitugua, 22, who took his own life in November 2021. Quitugua was defending the base during the attack and was later diagnosed with a TBI, CBS reported.
Another soon-to-be recipient, Daine Kvasager, was knocked off his feet when a missile impacted approximately 150 feet away. He, too, was diagnosed with a TBI and now suffers from headaches and memory loss, along with hearing and vision issues.
Dustin Jones is a former senior staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine covering military and intelligence news. Jones served four years in the Marine Corps with tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. He studied journalism at the University of Colorado and Columbia University. He has worked as a reporter in Southwest Montana and at NPR. A New Hampshire native, Dustin currently resides in Southern California.
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