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6 US service members awarded Purple Hearts for injuries sustained in Iranian missile attack

Posted May 4, 2020 1:05 p.m. EDT
Updated May 4, 2020 1:14 p.m. EDT

— US Central Command announced Monday that the first batch of Purple Hearts have been awarded to service members injured during a January Iranian missile attack in Iraq.

"The first six Purple Hearts approved for injuries sustained during a Jan. 8, 2020 Iranian ballistic missile attack on Al Assad Air Base in Iraq were awarded to U.S. Army soldiers in Iraq and Kuwait on May 3 and 4, respectively," Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for US Central Command, said in a statement.

CNN reported last week that dozens of US military personnel were expected to receive Purple Hearts in recognition of traumatic brain injuries they suffered in the attack on the al Asad air base, according to three US defense officials. The officials described the decision as extremely sensitive because of the attention the issue received after President Donald Trump dismissed the injuries as "not very serious," when they were first reported.

Urban said a total of 29 Army soldiers injured in the attack are set to receive a Purple Heart, and that the rest of the medals will be given out later this week.

The Purple Heart is traditionally given to US service members who are wounded or killed in combat. The US Department of Veterans Affairs has described it as "one of the most recognized and respected medals awarded to members of the US armed forces," and "the nation's oldest military award."

Since 2011, the Defense Department has had a policy of awarding Purple Hearts for service members who suffer from traumatic brain injuries, which are often called the silent wound of war.

The Pentagon and Trump initially said no service members were injured or killed in the attack, but it subsequently became clear that many sustained traumatic brain injuries after blast waves from the Iranian explosions hit the bunkers they were sheltering in.

The number of TBI cases rose steadily in the weeks after the attack to 110, according to the Defense Department.

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