The Senate has unanimously approved legislation to award congressional gold medals to the 11 Marines, a sailor and a soldier who died in a suicide bombing on August 26 at Kabul airport in Afghanistan. Top row, from left: Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, Cpl. Daegan W. Page, Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola and Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui. Middle row from left: Sailor Maxton W. Soviak, Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, Cpl. Hunter Lopez, Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo and Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss. Bottom row, from left: Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz and Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover. (Facebook, US Marine Corps, Twitter, Instagram)
The Senate has unanimously approved legislation to award congressional gold medals to the 13 U.S. officials killed in a suicide bombing at Kabul airport in the final days of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.
The Senate’s approval Wednesday night to award the highest congressional honor to the troops killed in an Islamic State attack on August 26 at Hamid Karzai International Airport sends the measure to President Joe Biden for his signature. The House passed the bill by a vote in October.
“Today, the U.S. Senate moved to recognize the courage, sacrifice, and service of the 13 brave young men and women killed in Afghanistan,” Senator Steve Daines, R-Mont., Said in a statement. “At a turning point for our nation, they gave the ultimate full measure of our freedoms. I look forward to the President honoring these American heroes and quickly signing this bill.
Eleven Marines, a soldier and a naval officer were killed in the blast – the last U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan during the war launched by the United States in the weeks following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
The bill would award the congressional gold medal to Navy NCO 3rd Class Max Soviak, 22; Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23; and Marines Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20; Lance Cpl. David Espinoza, 20; Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, 20; Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20; Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22; Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, 31; Cpl. Daegan William-Tyeler Page, 23; Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23; Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, 22; Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola, 20, and Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25.
They were killed as they supported US-led efforts to evacuate thousands of Afghans and allies trying to flee the Taliban in the days after the Islamist group was swept back to power for the first time since 2001. The fallen troops were close on a crowded airport gate when the explosion started and killed them, more than 160 Afghan civilians and wounded dozens more in one of the deadliest single incidents in the 20-year war.
Rep. Lisa McClain, R-Mich., Introduced the bipartisan legislation to honor the fallen troops on August 31, just hours after the last U.S. military troops left Afghanistan.
“US officials went beyond their duty to protect US citizens and our allies to ensure they are brought to safety in an extremely dangerous situation when the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan,” the bill reads. “US officials exemplified extreme bravery and bravery against armed enemy combatants [and] … Members dedicated their lives and their heroism deserves great honor. “
The Congressional Gold Medal dates back to the American Revolution and serves as the 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 Thursday. “I am proud that this important legislation to give these heroes the highest honor of Congress is one step closer to becoming law.”