Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Purple Hearts given in Iraq missile strike


WASHINGTON — Six Army soldiers who were injured in a ballistic missile attack in Iraq in January have been awarded Purple Hearts, and 23 others have been approved for the award and will get them later this week, U.S. Central Command said Monday.

Navy Capt. Bill Urban said the awards were approved by Lt. Gen. Pat White, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, following a review.

About 110 U.S. service members were diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries after the Iranian ballistic missile attack at al-Asad Air Base in Iraq on Jan. 8. More than a dozen missiles struck the base in an attack that Iran carried out as retaliatio­n for a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad that killed Tehran’s most powerful general, Qassem Soleimani, on Jan. 3. Troops at al-Asad were warned of an incoming attack, and most were in bunkers scattered around the base.

Initially, commanders and President Donald Trump said there were no injuries during the attack. But after several days, troops began exhibiting concussion-like symptoms and the military started evacuating some from Iraq. A majority of those injured were eventually able to return to work; others were hospitaliz­ed or returned to the U.S.

Trump triggered criticism when he dismissed the injuries as “not very serious” and described them as headaches and other things.

Urban said 80 service members were considered for the awards, and each recommenda­tion package submitted by unit leaders was evaluated by a review board. Urban said that a traumatic brain injury diagnosis doesn’t automatica­lly qualify a service member for a Purple Heart.

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