The Union Democrat

U.S. House passes Mcclain measure awarding medal to 13 killed in Kabul

- By MELISSA NANN BURKE

The U.S. House passed bipartisan legislatio­n by voice vote last month that would posthumous­ly award the Congressio­nal Gold Medal to the 13 American service members killed in the August suicide bomb attack in Kabul.

The measure, introduced by Republican freshman Rep. Lisa Mcclain of Bruce Township, Michigan,had 323 co-sponsors in the House, including 10 from Michigan — five Democrats and five Republican­s. It was McClain's first measure to pass the House.

Mcclain said in an interview that seeing the bill on its way to adoption was “bitter sweet,” but she was grateful the House took it up so swiftly.

“We wanted to do something to honor the fallen men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice — something to keep their memory alive,” Mcclain said. “With all the ugliness sometimes that goes on in politics, I just thought this would be a positive thing to do.”

Mcclain said she hopes the measure quickly passes the Senate on a unanimous basis and that President Joe Biden will sign it.

Her bill notes that Aug. 26 was the highest single-day death toll of the war in Afghanista­n for the United States in more than a decade.

In total, the attack by the Islamic State affiliate ISIS-K at the gates of Hamid Karzai Internatio­nal Airport killed as many as 200 people and wounded hundreds of others, including 14 American troops.

More than 5,000 U.S. troops were deployed to help with the evacuation of more than 100,000 people after the Taliban swiftly took control of Afghanista­n in August amid the U.S. military's withdraw.

Mcclain said she's met with some of the fallen service members' parents and families.

“It makes them feel good, for lack of better words. It's a nice way to honor them,” she said. “Quite honestly, it's hard. It's still fresh in their hearts. To know their memory and legacy will live on, they're extremely grateful to know that their loved ones didn't pass in vain, and that they're appreciate­d.

“In a time when there's so much partisansh­ip, it really makes you feel good to know that not everything is partisan,” she added.

The day before the attack, the U.S. State Department had warned of a “credible” threat at the Kabul airport, urging people to leave the area. Those gathered at the gates were hoping to make one of the last evacuation flights out of the country.

“The American service members went above and beyond the call of duty to protect citizens of the United States and our allies to ensure they are brought to safety in an extremely dangerous situation as the Taliban regained control over Afghanista­n,” the bill says.

“The American service members exemplifie­d extreme bravery and valor against armed enemy combatants. The American service members dedicated their lives and their heroism deserves great honor.”

Mcclain's measure also names each of the 13 dead, which included 11 Marines, one soldier and one sailor:

• Navy Corpsman Maxton Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio

• Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California

• Lance Cpl. David Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas

• Lance Cpl. Rylee Mccollum, 20, Jackson, Wyoming

• Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20, of Wentzville, Missouri

• Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, California

• Staff Sgt. Darin Taylor Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah

• Cpl. Daegan William-tyeler Page, 23, of Omaha, Nebraska

• Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23, of Roseville, California

• Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, 22, Logansport, Indiana

• Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, California

• Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25, Lawrence, Massachuse­tts and

• Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tennessee

They were the first U.S. service members killed in Afghanista­n since February 2020.

Rep. Peter Meijer, R-grand Rapids Township, said the bill is an opportunit­y to honor the sacrifices of those who gave their lives keeping the gates at Kabul airport open, “ensuring that as many people as possible could get through and have a chance to get to safety and start a new life.”

“Obviously, it's personal — not just being a military veteran, not just somebody who was at Kabul Airport during that period, but also who had personal connection­s to that unit,” Meijer said. “I'm proud to be able to honor them and show them that Congress is grateful for their sacrifice.”

Biden announced his decision in April to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanista­n and end the “forever war” that was launched after the Sept. 11 terror attacks by alQaida in 2001.

Biden said he wanted to see no more U.S. troops sacrifice themselves for a war that he no longer believed to be in the best interest of the United States or its allies.

If Mcclain's measure is enacted, the gold medal would be given to the Smithsonia­n Institutio­n for display, with the intent that it would be displayed outside of Washington at times in locations associated with the 13 service members killed Aug. 26, according to the text.

U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-massachuse­tts, and Steve Daines, R-montana introduced a Senate companion to the bill in September.

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